By Nitya Chakraborty
Only a month has passed since the results of the Karnataka assembly elections were out on May 12, but for the Congress Party, this has been the period of great learning about the dynamics of coalition politics. Congress led by Rahul Gandhi has become more sober and practical in dealing with the regional parties as also the smaller parties whom the Congress leadership did not take into account earlier. Rahul Gandhi is certainly a changed man now and he has come to the conclusion that the Congress has to enter into alliance with the maximum number of anti-BJP parties to take on the might of saffrons led by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the coming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The post Karnataka development is a sort of metaphorphosis for the dominant Congress leadership. The GOP always thought itself as the natural party of governance and even when it was not in power, the leaders tried to make use of the unity with the other parties to return to power on their own. There was no real respect for the other opposition parties whose help the Congress took. This time, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi and the other leaders of the Party are going out of their way to woo the regional parties and the smaller parties. The good thing with the Congress now IS that the party leadership has come to the conclusion that the Congress has to broadbase the unity of the parties against the BJP to the maximum extent and only by preventing the division of the anti-BJP votes, the opposition can expect to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party.
The by election results have strengthened this belief and that has led to serious discussions about aligning with the regional parties and the smaller parties in the coming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. All the senior leaders of the Congress are talking to the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati about seat adjustments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan as also Chhattisgarh assembly elections as a part of the national alliance that will emerge after the expected success of the Congress-BSP combine in the three states in the assembly poll later this year.
What is significant for the opposition unity efforts this time is that all the participants are talking in a positive tone and with respect. The question is not whether there are problems in seat adjustments, the issue is that this alliance is done in principle and now the follow up will be done about seat sharing since both the parties are determined to defeat the BJP in a united manner. Both Kamal Nath the MP state Congress president and the leader of the MP campaign committee Jyotiraditya Scindia have publicly said that this alliance with the BSP will ensure the defeat of the BJP in all the three states, not just in Madhya Pradesh.BSP has got vote share of 6 to 7 per cent in all these states and the addition of the BSP strength to the Congress in a period of acute anti incumbency for the BJP ruled state governments will be a blessing for the Congress. At the grassroots level, there is excitement among the workers of both the parties. Both Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati have so far approached the issue of alliance in a spirit of accommodation.
It is just not the big regional parties like the BSP and the Samajwadi Party, the Congress is now taking note of smaller parties which are based in local pockets. In MP, the Congress has started talks with Gondwana Ganatantra Party having influence in some tribal areas. The state Congress leadership has had preliminary discussions and the outcome is positive. The point is that Rahul Gandhi is now ready to use every single area of anti-BJP platform and that is of big advantage to the opposition parties as also the smaller parties which are serious in opposing the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.
As of now, the Congress President is set to have discussion with some smaller parties in Maharashtra along with the NCP. Then in Jharkhand, already a pre poll understanding has been done with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. The situation is favourable in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh with most of the anti-BJP parties ready for joining hands. This has been possible because of the changed attitude of the Congress president. Congress is ready to be the third party in UP in the opposition combination after SP and BSP. Similarly the SP president Akhilesh Yadav has made his position clear by stating that in the interests of the opposition unity against the BJP, his SP will not mind giving up few seats to the BSP if that is needed for opposition alliance. This is the real spirit that should be the core of opposition alliance.
For the Congress, however, the real test will be in the states, whether the regional parties are in power and they are also anti-BJP. They generally will not like to give space to the Congress for growth but at the same time, the Congress also will like to expand in those states where the party is not in power. In these states, the model suggested by the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee can be applied. For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha, the regional parties are in power and they are all likely to fight in maximum seats in Lok Sabha elections. In these states, the Congress will fight on its own, but in some seats where the BJP is very strong and the divided opposition may lead to BJP victory, some adjustments can be worked out. The process is difficult but still efforts can be made if the regional parties are really serious about defeating the BJP in the Lok Sabha poll.
For the opposition parties, the present period is most favourable in broadening the base of anti-BJP unity. The Congress has taken the right initiative, the SP, BSP and the NCP are also showing accommodating attitude. This is the time to sit and discuss a pre-poll minimum common programme. The Left parties are most consistent in opposing the BJP. They can contribute effectively to the preparation of a viable pro-people CMP. That will be the basis on which the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign, will have to be run. The BJP has massive funds and resources. The opposition has to combat that through organizational unity at grass roots level and programmes for the common people. (IPA service)