By Sushil Kutty
Last heard, the NDA had taken a massive lead in the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat elections with the BJP, the NCP Ajit Pawar faction and the Shinde Shiv Sena going great guns while the Congress, Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP Sharad Pawar were way behind, underlying the reality that the INDI-Alliance has a long way to go before being declared fit to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 general elections, at least in Maharashtra where the Sena (UBT) is the only party in the Maha Vikas Aghadi which has grasped the enormity of the challenge.
But the Shiv Sena (UBT) is, perhaps, also the only INDI-Alliance party which has realized that the Congress is the party to beat in the five assembly elections, and in the 2024 general elections. The INDI-Alliance coalition partners should not forget this. Neither should Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and nor should Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party.
The never-ending infighting within the INDI-Alliance will reflect in the results of the assembly elections in the five states that will be declared on December 3. The rumblings in the INDI-Alliance were serious enough for the Shiv Sena (UBT) to remind coalition partners that the alliance was formed to remove the “dictatorial regime” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and not to fight among themselves over the assembly elections in the five states going to polls in November.
The INDI-Alliance shouldn’t be affected by politics in the states, which is an altogether different cup of tea, the Sena (UBT) said in an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamna’. It warned that the elections in five states were a “dress rehearsal” for the 2024 general elections and no party should forget it. Hitting the nail on its head, the editorial noted that the Congress was the party to beat in all five states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana.
It is significant that the Shiv Sena (UBT) grasped this vital difference which parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Aam Aadmi Party simply could not. In fact, the Bahujan Samaj Party, which is not in the INDI-Alliance, also did not or else Mayawati would have been in the alliance. “It is important for the Congress to win polls to stop the misuse of power and arrogance of money. This will be crucial for the INDIA alliance,” the ‘Saamna’ editorial said, adding that it was a bygone reality that the INDI-Alliance would trounce the BJP in the 2024 general elections.
In fact, UBT Supremo Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray finds Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar the most pragmatic among all INDI-Alliance leaders. The Saamna editorial noted that the concerns of the Bihar Chief Minister regarding the alliance were valid and should not be taken lightly. Nitish Kumar had, however, accused the Congress of slowing down the momentum of the INDI-Alliance with its preoccupation with the assembly elections in the five states while leaving the INDI-Alliance to its own devices.
The ‘Saamna’ editorial gave Nitish Kumar credit for the formation of the INDI-Alliance of 28 opposition parties to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party, but said that no INDI-Alliance leader should air his/her concerns about the alliance publicly as this would make the Bharatiya Janata Party “happy”, which is an odd way to put it across.
Akhilesh Yadav had made his concerns about the Congress very publicly and in utter contempt of the leading light of the INDI-Alliance. “The Congress is a very cunning party, even worse than the BJP,” Yadav told a meeting of SP supporters, using the Hindi pejorative “chalu” for the Congress, clearly not bothered about how his contempt for an INDI-Alliance partner will affect the alliance’s poll prospects. In Shiv Sena (UBT) language it would only make the “BJP happy”.
As it is, the BJP has been increasing its rhetoric against the INDI-Alliance, particularly the Congress. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the other day that the Congress was a party of “cut, commission, corruption”. The INDI-Alliance should be fighting this onslaught from the “enemy” instead of taking potshots at each other. Even the statement of Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge that “INDIA Bloc will decide PM Face after being elected” is taken as a weakness of the alliance by the BJP.
The problem ailing the INDI-Alliance is the Congress refused to share seats with the Samajwadi Party in Madhya Pradesh and ED-hit Arvind Kejriwal told the ED that he cannot respond to the investigating agency’s summons because he was campaigning for the assembly elections and the Aam Aadmi Party was an important player in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
All three are constituents of the INDIA Bloc but they are at loggerheads in the states. In October, the Nationalist Congress Party faction of Sharad Pawar had warned that there were differences of opinion among the INDI-Alliance Partners, which were hurdles in the way of unity. The results of the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat elections are an indicator that the INDI-Alliance should take their differences seriously, very seriously. The fact is even in the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat elections Congress won the most number of seats in the MVA. (IPA Service)