Opp. front: Rahul is right to be cautious
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.