By Nitya Chakraborty
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s talks in Delhi during her five day visit beginning July 26, have helped in a big way in facilitating the process of an understanding in principle that the Congress has to be a major partner in the proposed front of the anti-BJP opposition parties in order to ensure the defeat of the BJP led by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
.Indications available suggest that in her meeting with the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on July 28, she emphasised that the Congress has a big responsibility in combating the BJP challenge in the coming assembly elections in 2022 and 2023 and through a better performance by rejuvenating the organisation, the Party will be able to generate the right political climate for taking on the BJP in 2024 polls.
Mamata has a definite political strategy for both the coming assembly polls as also the Lok Sabha elections. According to this, the main anti-BJP party in the state will have decisive power in deciding on the electoral policyin consultations with the other parties which are interested in being a part of the anti-BJP front. That way, excepting Uttar Pradesh, the Congress will be the main anti-BJP party in most of the states that are going for assembly polls in 2022.PrashantKishor, the poll strategist has already discussed with Sonia Gandhi in the presence of Rahul and Priyanka, the possible Congress strategy for the state elections and how it can coincide with the composite opposition gameplan.
At the intuitive of Mamata, PK has already prepared a presentation on how maximum electoral understanding can be made possible between the Congress and the regional parties both for the assembly polls and finally in the Lok Sabha polls. The basic principle is that in states, the anti- BJP opposition parties may fight against each other taking into account the local political compulsions, but for Lok Sabha elections, maximum efforts will have to be given for total understanding of opposition parties against BJP taking into account an objective assessment of the strength of the contending opposition parties.
Right now, the task of the opposition is to be battle ready for the assembly elections in five states by early 2022- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur. Only seven months are left for these polls.Elections to other two states Gujarat and Himachal will be taking place by the end of 2022. So, as of now, preparations by the opposition for the coming five states, especially Uttar Pradesh, is of crucial importance.
Of these five states, the Congress is the major anti-BJP opposition party in four states, Punjab, UK, Goa and Manipur. In Punjab, the Congress is in a comfortable position. PK knows Punjab well since he worked in 2017 with the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Thistime the situation is far better as the BJP-Akali Dal alliance is not there and the farmers agitation has further dented the BJP base in the state. There is possibility of challenge by AAP in some seats, but that will not be a formidable one if the Congress party in Punjab functions unitedly with CM and the new PCC president Novjit Singh Sidhu collaborating.
The real challenge for PK is to help Congress in getting back power in Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa. In Manipur and Goa, the Congress emerged as the strongest party in last elections but the central leadership failed to intervene in proper time leading to BJP sponsored defections. This time, the Congress has to make all efforts both in Manipur and Goa to win the polls by forming alliances with a few regional parties which are not aligned with BJP.In both these states, money power is important and the Congress has to organise funds to compete with BJP.Right now, the ground situation is not comfortable for BJP in both the states. Congress with strategic help from PK has to ensure that maximum mobilisation is made in Goa and Manipur to defeat BJP.
As regards Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party is the main party fighting BJP and the Party is stitching up an alliance with the smaller parties including RLD to fight the BJP. The Congress is not in its radar for alliance now and BSP has already announced that it will fight alone.PK’s expertise will be on real test in UP if he is able to organise some meeting ground of the SP led alliance and the Congress before the elections. UP has 403 assembly seats and in Lok Sabha polls, UP will be sending 80 members. The opposition has a big stake in the UP-assembly elections and both SP and the Congress have a moral responsibility in ensuring the defeat of the Yogi Adityanath government
Congress in UP hasan inflated ego about their strength and that is the main hurdle in arriving at an understanding with the SP.In principle, SP will not object to any understanding in assembly poll, but Akhilesh Yadav thinks that the Congress has not much organisational strength now in the state and that has continued despite all their electoral reverses. PK has a Herculean task to guide the Congress in UP, rejuvenate the party organisation in the districts and local levels, advise in choosing winnable candidates and finally facilitating the process of understanding between SP and the Congress on the basis of the winnability of the potential candidates. If PK can achieve this daunting task before Uttar Pradesh polls, that will be a fabulous job for the opposition.
The moot point is that the Congress has to act as a proactive political party with a full time 24×7 available Party president. For the state level Congress leaders, it is a peculiar situation that Rahul Gandhi is doing all the job of a president but he does not hold any position. This is a serious gap in the functioning of the party which all the senior members of the Congress are aware of. If PK can really persuade Rahul Gandhi to take over officially Party president and start operating as a full timer, that will be a great achievement for him and that will hasten the process of effective opposition unity also.
A combination of pro-active Rahul Gandhi-Mamata and PK will be deadly against BJP in both assembly elections and also in 2024 Lok Sabha poll. Mamata has that stature to negotiate with the fence sitting chief ministers like Naveen Patnaik of Odisha, K Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana and Jaganmohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh. Their parties may fight the Congress in their respective states in assembly polls, but they can be persuaded to join opposition against the BJP after the LokSabha elections, if the joint opposition emerges as an alternative. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has assured Mamata during his meeting with her that AAP will be with the opposition in Lok Sabha against BJP, despite their reservations about the Congress.
The ground reality is that there cannot be any one track approach to build alliance of opposition parties. There has to be enoughflexibility and some compromise of state level party interests to achieve the national objective of ousting BJP from power in 2024 polls. The three parties running the governments in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have to be brought within the framework of opposition after 2024 elections. AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi is already in the opposition loop. The next full meeting of the opposition leaders have to go into details of this flexible strategy to see that maximum level of understanding is reached between the non-BJP parties on both common minimum programme and plan for action.This will require statesmanship and clear vision. Defeating saffrons led by Narendra Modi is a daunting task but that is possible in 2024 poll if there is a foolproof opposition strategy. (IPA Service)