By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It does not pay to be oversmart in politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to realize this sooner than later. The party’s desperate attempt to get the better of its biggest tormentor Rahul Gandhi has backfired badly.
The BJP is under the impression that by getting the Lok Sabha Secretariat to announce the disqualification of Rahul a day after a court in Gujarat convicted him in a defamation case, it has scored a major political as well as legal victory against the Gandhi scion. But the joy could turn out to be shortlived.
The reason: the BJP’s political blunder of the first order has resulted in the coming together of 18 opposition parties who had been quarrelling like Kilkenny cats till the other day. Among the 18 parties are Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) which had been strongly critical of Congress. These parties, in a surprising show of unity, have asked the Congress – the party they had been cord shouldering hitherto -to take the initiative to coordinate with various opposition parties outside Parliament to challenge the BJP Government on critical issues.
The display of unity came at a dinner meeting called by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, where it was decided to work together to battle the BJP government ahead of the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The meeting, called to protest against Rahul’s disqualification, was attended by the DMK. NCP, JD(U), BRS, CPI(M), CPI and AAP, among others. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were also present at the meeting. Earlier, these parties had joined the Congress-sponsored “Save Democracy” protest in Parliament and later marched to Vijay Chowk, reiterating their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Adani issue.
The decision to ask the Congress, the largest Opposition party, to take the initiative for coordinating the fight to “save democracy” is a welcome acknowledgement of the reality that the Congress cannot be excluded from any effort at total opposition unity. Indications are that the Congress would soon hold meetings with top leaders of all opposition parties and take the discussion forward. That signals the possibility of more meetings in the days to come to consolidate the gains from the BJP’s political blunder.
That said, the Congress must avoid any action that would weaken the newfound opposition unity. Unfortunately, Rahul’s remarks against Savarkar have evoked strong criticism from both the Shiv Sena factions. NCP boss Sharad Pawar did the right thing to douse the fires by promptly playing the mediator and getting the warring Sena and Congress to smoke the peace pipe. Pawar has underlined the paramount need for all parties to desist from making statements which would undermine the efforts for total opposition unity.
It is incumbent on all parties to see that the goodwill generated at the national level is not dissipated by indulging in petty political spats which would benefit the BJP. The CPI(M), for instance, has said that it was only opposing the BJP’s bid to harass opposition leaders when it extended support to Rahul. It should not be construed as a support to the Congress. Be that as it may, the CPI(M) and the Congress, even as they continue their bitter rivalry in Kerala, must not lose sight of the larger goal of total opposition unity at the national level to take the BJP bull by the horns.
The Congress, too, has its task cut out. True, the party has wrested the political initiative from the belligerent BJP. But it will not be easy for it to consolidate the gains from BJP’s political faux pas. If the party is serious about unseating the BJP Government at the Centre, then the immediate task before the party is to go in for a thorough organisational revamp across the country. This is of paramount importance. For, without a strong organization, the Congress will not be able to challenge the BJP’s organizational might. This being the ground reality, Congress leaders must cry an immediate halt to their internal bickerings and bend their energies towards the difficult task of revitalizing the party organization.
The various regional parties also have a big responsibility in this regard. They should stop humiliating the Congress by indulging in frequent taunts against that party. They should shed their egos and rally behind the Congress, which despite its weakness, still has a pan-Indian presence. No other opposition party can claim such all-India base.
The Opposition must also avoid falling into the BJP’s trap of making it a Modi Versus Rahul contest. The strategy should be underpinned by sound political tactics and formulation of an ideological framework backed by a common minimum programme. The catch phrase needs to be: it is a fight between dictatorship and democracy. It is not easy for all opposition parties to agree on this. But they have to do that in order to survive. Failure to remain united will result in the BJP retaining power in the 2024 electoral battle. That is the last thing the Opposition parties would want. (IPA Service)