Separately together: On Opposition unity

Opposition parties are too divided on several issues to form a national alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party

September 29, 2022 12:20 am | Updated 12:50 pm IST

With the 2024 Lok Sabha election 19 months away, the chorus on Opposition unity is getting louder once more. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the last one month has already been to Delhi twice, crooning the anthem to bring everyone together. He is not the only one singing this song. Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao has travelled to Delhi, Patna and Bengaluru to explore an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) front. The Left parties routinely call for uniting all “secular democratic forces” without really spelling out who will come within this bracket. But despite these parleys, the possibility of a 1977-type Opposition alliance is unlikely to materialise. At an event organised by the Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana recently, several parties came together, but the Congress was pointedly excluded, prompting Mr. Kumar to publicly state that no Opposition alliance can be meaningful without it. Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav is never found wanting in taking on the BJP, but is now sceptical about tying up with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress and is very hostile to the idea of Mr. Kumar trying to expand his footprint into Uttar Pradesh. The Congress is critical for any Opposition unity and its former President Rahul Gandhi is walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir with the slogan of ‘unite India’. But the party is also caught up in a storm of internal politics at the moment.

The Aam Aadmi Party’s National Convenor Arvind Kejriwal is fancying his prospects of emerging as the alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and does not want to dilute his stakes in a larger formation. The Trinamool Congress (TMC), which is the second largest Opposition party in Parliament, has been eerily silent on ‘opposition unity’. West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee is no longer exhibiting the enthusiasm she showed ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The TMC chose to abstain rather than side with the Opposition in the Vice-Presidential election. It is not as if Opposition unity alone can defeat the BJP. In 2019 in Uttar Pradesh, the SP and the BSP came together but failed to push back the BJP in the State. Still, State-level partnerships of anti-BJP parties can be more viable than national-level attempts. The more these parties try to show unity at the national or multi-State level, the more their contradictions show up. Focusing on each State separately, attending to the local particularities, might be more useful for these parties.

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To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

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