Opp. front: Rahul is right to be cau­tious

Deccan Chronicle - - EDIT -

For Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, the mag­i­cal point was the Gu­jarat elec­tion re­sult in De­cem­ber. It helped in no small mea­sure to ce­ment his lead­er­ship of his party. If the Congress had done poorly, it is Mr Gandhi who would have been laughed out of court, and the Congress would be look­ing bedrag­gled to­day. Since then, the Congress pres­i­dent has pushed ahead fur­ther. The fi­nal po­lit­i­cal out­come in Kar­nataka — the com­ing to­gether of the Congress and “sec­u­lar” ally Janata Dal (S), with no MLA of ei­ther party de­fect­ing to the BJP to al­low the for­ma­tion of a saf­fron gov­ern­ment there — has pointed the way to the en­tire non-BJP Op­po­si­tion, and kept Mr Gandhi afloat at the high­est level of pol­i­tics. If the BJP won Kar­nataka, the story would have changed and the Gu­jarat ef­fect would have been neu­tralised.

This is the back­ground in which the Congress chief’s re­marks in Mum­bai on Wednesday un­der­lin­ing the need for a “ma­ha­gath­band­han”, or grand al­liance of Op­po­si­tion par­ties against the “BJP-RSS”, is best un­der­stood. The ques­tion posed to him about the pro­posed front’s lead­er­ship is log­i­cal, but pre­ma­ture.

The com­ing to­gether of par­ties is rel­a­tively easy when they are in Op­po­si­tion but a far more com­plex task if they think they are pre­par­ing for gov­ern­ment. There are many ex­am­ples of this re­cently, and also of fights break­ing out as friendly par­ties be­come ad­ver­saries.

How things shape against the present BJPled NDA gov­ern­ment re­mains to be seen, but it’s fair to say that only the first steps have been taken so far. Mr Gandhi may have a point when he says the non-BJP Op­po­si­tion is be­ing pushed by peo­ple to co­a­lesce.

But it is po­lit­i­cal par­ties which are the in­stru­ment to give shape to the com­ing to­gether of di­verse el­e­ments, and it’s they who will fi­nally de­cide, keep­ing a mul­ti­tude of fac­tors in view. Be­sides the “sec­u­lar” angle, the reg­is­ter of re­gional and caste in­ter­ests will in­evitably kick in.

How­ever, in the fi­nal anal­y­sis, it is the num­bers won in the next Lok Sabha elec­tion that will count the most when it comes to fig­ur­ing out who or which party will lead the “ma­ha­gath­band­han”. Mr Gandhi was thus re­al­is­tic when he de­clined to an­swer a me­dia query on this mat­ter. An­other fac­tor is what hap­pens in the Assem­bly elec­tions in Ra­jasthan, Mad­hya Pradesh and Ch­hat­tis­garh later this year. Some of the pol­i­tics sur­round­ing the lead­er­ship of the anti-BJP front will be shaped by those re­sults.

The Congress pres­i­dent’s if­tar party in New Delhi on Wednesday was at­tended by most prospec­tive as­so­ci­ates of the Congress, though not all. No deep po­lit­i­cal mean­ing should be read into this at this stage. The high­est lead­ers of most the “sec­u­lar” par­ties were miss­ing. This is also part of the po­lit­i­cal play. All eyes are on the Hindi belt poll re­sults later this year.

How things shape against the present BJP-led NDA gov­ern­ment re­mains to be seen... Mr Gandhi may have a point when he says the nonBJP Op­po­si­tion is be­ing pushed by peo­ple to co­a­lesce.

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