The Congress was prompt in extending support to the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief Nitish Kumar but his return to the mahagathbandhan/Opposition fold will certainly add to the numbers of contenders who are looking at a leadership role in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls of 2024.
Mr. Kumar, sources said, reciprocated by calling up Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, soon after exiting the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and resigning as Chief Minister.
The Congress is likely to actively participate in the next Bihar government but the question that is being asked in political circles is about Mr. Kumar’s role for the 2024 polls.
“I think it’s too early to comment at this stage. But in a democracy, the party that wins the highest number of MPs usually takes the leadership role,” Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Tariq Anwar told The Hindu.
In the context of Bihar, he added, “Ours is an ideological battle and we are not fighting for power. The Congress will support any non-BJP government and help strengthen secular forces.”
But with a weakened Congress following successive losses in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the race to become the face of the Opposition before the next general elections has become crowded.
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Telangana counterpart and Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao and Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Admi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal have already expressed their prime ministerial ambition.
Being from the Hindi heartland and having had the experience of running a State as well as being a Cabinet Minister in the past, Mr. Kumar could score over his rivals to be the Opposition’s face in 2024 polls.
Though leadership for 2024 is an issue that most Opposition parties don’t want to discuss at this stage, Mr. Kejriwal took to Twitter to talk about his party’s growing political footprint.
“After Del n Punjab, AAP is now a state recognised party in Goa too. If we get recognised in one more state, we will officially be declared as a “national party”. I congratulate each and every volunteer for their hard work. I thank the people for posing faith in AAP n its ideology,” tweeted the Delhi Chief Minister, hours before the JD(U)’s formal exit from the NDA.
CPI general secretary D Raja, however, took to Twitter to point out how the JD(U)’s exit is a sign of the BJP’s weakening relationship with allies.
“NitishKumar breaking alliance with BJP is a strong indictment of the politics of intimidation practised by BJP. BJP’s authoritarianism leaves no scope for cooperation. After Akalis & Shiv Sena, JD(U) is latest example. Cracks are visible in the relationship of BJP & AIADMK too,” Mr. Raja said.
“#BiharPolitics. Another big reason why PM @narendramodi and @AmitShah ran away and SHUT DOWN #ParliamentMonsoonSession FOUR DAYS EARLY,” tweeted Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress. However, he steered clear of commenting on the significance of the JD(U)’s shift to the Opposition fold.