‘Grand Al­liance’ The Non-starter

The Ra­jya Sabha deputy chair­man poll ex­poses op­po­si­tion unity and chances of Congress Party Pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship to the ‘grand al­liance’ in mak­ing

The Day After - - CONTENT - By ANIL ANAND

The more they pose to be united or mak­ing ef­forts to do so, the more dis­in­te­grated they stand. This def­i­ni­tion be­fits the most and aptly de­scribe the much talked about op­po­si­tion unity ef­forts, to stop the Naren­dra Modi jug­ger­naut in 2019 Lok Sabha elec­tions, in the light of Hari­vansh Narayan Singh, a Janata Dal (u) nom­i­nee, romp­ing home vic­to­ri­ous as NDA backed can­di­date to be­come deputy chair­man of Ra­jya Sabha.

All those who thought that the op­po­si­tion par­ties led by Congress were se­ri­ously work­ing at op­po­si­tion unity and that the deputy chair­man’s elec­tion was a test­ing ground, were abysmally proved wrong. All those who thought that lead­ers of these op­po­si­tion par­ties would keep their al­tar- egos aside and would not be mes­merised by the glare of the BJP-led rul­ing com­bine had to cut a sorry fig­ure. But it seems these lead­ers had no re­morse and un­mind­ful of the for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge that they face in the com­ing gen­eral elec­tions.

Most of the anti-BJP and anti-NDA po­lit­i­cal par­ties, who in some mea­sure were try­ing to cob­ble an al­liance, have their share of blame for los­ing this op­por­tu­nity to put a united face. It is def­i­nitely a re­flec­tion of poor show of al­liance man­age­ment on the part of Congress which is ex­pected to be­come ful­crum of the op­po­si­tion unity. There are other fac­tors too re­spon­si­ble for op­po­si­tion unity show­ing deep crevices which, of course, were tact­fully ex­ploited by the Naren­dra Modi Govern­ment on one side and an ag­gres­sive Amit Shah-led BJP on the other.

Where did the op­po­si­tion par­ties ex­actly go wrong or is only the Congress to be blamed? These ques­tions war­rant an an­swer de­spite the fact, as has been wit­nessed in the past, that rul­ing party has al­ways been at an ad­van­ta­geous po­si­tion and hav­ing where-withal to ex­ploit the chinks in the op­po­si­tion camp. All the avail­able tools in their (read rul­ing dis­pen­sa­tion) ar­moury were as ef­fec­tively used by the BJP-led Govern­ment as it could to en­sure vic­tory of Singh.

The Congress, de­spite cov­er­ing much ground, has not been able to keep pace with the over­drive into which their arch ri­val BJP in­vari­ably slips in the face of such con­tests par­tic­u­larly when the broader ques­tion of op­po­si­tion unity is in­volved. The ques­tion arises that should the Congress have stolen a march over BJP in ap­proach­ing fence sit­ters such as Biju Janata Dal headed by Orissa chief min­is­ter Naveen Pat­naik, Shiv Sena, YSR Congress of Ja­gan­mo­han Reddy, Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party and other smaller groups.

The vic­tory mar­gin of the rul­ing com­bine can­di­date, of 20 odd votes, was on ac­count of these fence sit­ters fall­ing to the ap­peal of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, as he per­son­ally called Pat­naik, Shiv Sena par­mukh Ud­dhav Thack­erey and some oth­ers. Even un­der the cir­cum­stances the main group­ing of the op­po­si­tion par­ties should be given the credit that they stood their ground. The only fail­ure was that they failed to muster ad­di­tional sup­port not en­tirely due to the laid back at­ti­tude of the Congress but also due to lack­adaisi­cal be­hav­iour of lead­ers such as Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Trin­mool Congress chief Mamta Ban­er­jee

and even the Left par­ties.

Ini­tially, Pawar seemed en­thu­si­as­tic and was re­cep­tive to the idea that NCP nom­i­nee be made the united op­po­si­tion can­di­date and ac­cord­ingly name of Veena Cha­van had al­most been fi­nalised. It could have en­sured sup­port of Shiv Sena due to Pawar’s per­sonal equa­tion with Thack­ereys and then Maratha fac­tor com­ing into play with Cha­van be­ing a Maratha. This line up could have cre­ated a pos­i­tive at­mos­phere for some other fence sit­ters to back the op­po­si­tion can­di­date as Pawar has good equa­tions with lead­ers of some of these par­ties.

The first set­back came for the op­po­si­tion unity as Pawar changed his mind, os­ten­si­bly un­der in­flu­ence from one of his close aide who was un­der some pres­sure to con­vince his leader in drop­ping the idea of field­ing a NCP can­di­date, mid­way through the process. A sim­i­lar pres­sure seemed to have worked on YSR Congress chief Ja­gan­mo­han Reddy who is fac­ing heat of se­ries of CBI cases go­ing against him. The fact that Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi seemed re­luc­tant to per­son­ally ap­proach lead­ers such as Naveen Pat­naik, AAP chief and Delhi chief min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal and even Reddy whereas the rul­ing elite lost no time in con­tact­ing them, ul­ti­mately made the dif­fer­ence.

In fact, Pat­naik, sources said, had kept an open mind till Modi and Bihar chief min­is­ter and JD(u) pres­i­dent Ni­tish Ku­mar stole march over the op­po­si­tion camp and rang him up to seek sup­port for Singh’s can­di­da­ture. The phone calls did the trick as none from the op­po­si­tion camp in­clud­ing Rahul and Pawar, the lat­ter en­joys good re­la­tion with Pat­naik, at­tempted to con­tact him. This devel­op­ment tilted the scale.

The rul­ing dis­pen­sa­tion had an edge was clear from the very be­gin­ning. The fact that such elec­tions are not held on a level play­ing field, as has been seen in the past, was also fully known. Still it was ex­pected that the op­po­si­tion, amidst re­ports of vig­or­ous ef­forts at unity, would be able to cre­ate a strong im­pres­sion that they meant busi­ness. The man­ner, in which some of the op­po­si­tion lead­ers were seen go­ing around and indulging in lose talks days be­fore the elec­tions, in re­spect of op­po­si­tion unity over deputy chair­man’s elec­tions, had a con­trar­ian ef­fect on the unity is­sue.

En­tirely blam­ing the Congress will not help the op­po­si­tion par­ties in their en­deav­our to unite. In fact, by do­ing so they would only be help­ing the cause of BJP lead­ers whose prime tar­gets are Congress and Rahul Gandhi and re­peat­edly raise ques­tions on his ca­pa­bil­i­ties to lead the com­bine. If they are to unite they would have to close their ranks in its en­tirety without get­ting into the lead­er­ship is­sue. Or else they would run the risk of invit­ing an­other so­bri­quet “united we fall di­vided we stand”.

Ja­gan Mo­han Reddy with Sharad Pawar

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