By Kalyani Shankar
Now that the Narendra Modi government has won the trust vote on Friday, what next? The dramatic ‘hug’ and ‘wink’ of the Congress President Rahul Gandhi while speaking on the no-trust motion on Friday might have become news, but the real question is whether the Opposition is really ready to take on the BJP in 2019 and also who will lead the Opposition.
Though the trust motion was aimed attesting the NDA numbers, battle lines for 2019 polls are drawn after the heated debate. The next step to show opposition unity will be in the election of the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, but the BJP is not keen to hold the elections unless it mobilises the number for its own candidate or a BJP backed candidate. So it is likely to be postponed to the Winter session of Parliament by which time the polls for the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh would be over.
While by and large there was Opposition unity in Parliament, the efforts to get parties like the BJD did not succeed. The TRS (11) and BJD (20) stayed away. NDA ally Shiv Sena (18) also stayed away. They had been banking on 129 votes including smaller parties and got 125. Clearly, much more needs to be done to take on Modi.
The BJP too has the task of keeping the NDA flock together and get new friends. Though it gained the JD (U) and some smaller Northeastern regional partners, the TDP walked out of the NDA in March and the Shiv Sena, its oldest ally is practically out. Smaller parties like Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Hindustani Awam Morcha and RLSP also quit the NDA. The BJP itself pulled out its support to the PDP government. The party managers expected to get about 350 votes, much beyond the NDA strength in the house (314) but got 25 votes less despite getting the 37 votes from the AIADMK.
The Congress, if it wants to project its president Rahul Gandhi as a challenger to Modi, much needs to be done to establish his supremacy in the opposition. He has emerged much more confidant and the transition from Sonia to Rahul has been smooth. The first meeting of the Congress Working Committee chaired by Rahul on Sunday, authorized him to go ahead and form poll alliances and also draw up the road map ahead of 2019. Rahul realizes the difficult task of expanding the Congress vote base. “In each constituency, we have to find people who have not voted for us and develop a strategy to reach out to them and win back their trust,” he told the CWC.
On forming the alliances, Sonia Gandhi who might play a bigger role in her capacity as the chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party observed: “The need of the hour is the opposition unity and the ‘opposition has to get together in strategic alliances, keeping aside personal ambitions.’
However, both tasks are difficult. Regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), Mayawati (BSP), Chandra Babu Naidu (Telugu Desam Party) and Sharad Pawar (NCP) are not willing to accept Rahul Gandhi as the Opposition prime ministerial candidate, though they did not show any hesitation in accepting Sonia Gandhi in 2004 when she cobbled up a coalition, which came to power. In the present political atmosphere, Rahul must find a way to work with these strong and egoistic leaders and win over them. It is a million dollar question as all of them nourish prime ministerial ambitions whether they will accept Rahul as their leader.
Bringing new friends to the opposition ranks is going to be equally difficult as regional parties like the BJD and TRS want to keep equidistance from both the BJP and the Congress, as they are their main rivals in their states. The Congress does not want to include the AAP in the opposition group. Parties like INLD, PDP, Rajinikanth’s new outfit, YSR Congress and other smaller parties are averse to Congress. Since the DMK is already with the Congress, the AIADMK will not join the opposition group.
In such situation will Congress support anyone else after declaring Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate? Sensing the opportunity to become the face of Opposition, Mamata Banerjee roared at a rally on Saturday “Bengal will show the way for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls” and announced that she will bring all the opposition leaders in one platform in a rally proposed to be organised on January 19, 2019 at the Kolkata Brigade Grounds. It is obvious that Mamata wants to wow the country with a massive show of strength. The BSP wants Mayawati to be declared as prime ministerial candidate. There are others. With so many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ the Congress must win over new friends and keep old allies if it means business. It is not impossible, as alliances need a give and take attitude from both sides. (IPA Service)