By Arun Srivastava
Notwithstanding some political experts and BJP sympathisers expressing serious scepticism on the feasibility of the opposition unity, Monday’s meeting of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee with JD (U) chief Nitish Kumar and Tejashvi Yadav, the deputy chief minister of Bihar sends a clear message that this is now no more unrealistic.
The posturing of some of the TMC leaders and their projecting Mamata Banerjee as the opposition face for the job of prime minister earlier had caused severe worry about the fate of the opposition unity. It was even presumed that Narendra Modi would get the third chance to lead the country. But Monday’s success of Nitish Kumar in his mission to extract a positive commitment from Mamata has paved the way for broader understanding and unity amongst the opposition leaders.
The remark of Mamata which she made at the end of the meeting that “there is no question of ego” has come as a major relief. Mamata’s “not so caring” attitude towards the opposition unity had caused wild speculations in the opposition ranks and turned the leaders sceptical of the future of their move. But the entire unity spectrum took a significant change only after Rahul Gandhi gave his consent to Nitish’s efforts.
No doubt the mission, vision and theme of Nitish has gained significant acceptance. This gets vividly reflected in Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav agreeing to Mamata’s move. TMC chief has been pleased with the efforts of Nitish and even suggested to hold the all party unity meet in Patna. Obviously her coming out with this proposal implies Nitish should lead the pack.
Till Nitish meeting Mamata, the task of unity appeared to be an arduous one. But now almost all the opposition leaders share the common vision that in order to defeat Narendra Modi led BJP, it is imperative that they must forget their differences and come together. Yet another factor that has propelled them to adopt the policy of forget and forgive is Modi using extreme repressive tactics against the opposition leaders. They even nurse the feeling that in case Modi somehow wins the 2024 Lok Sabha election he would completely finish the opposition and regional parties by using the ED, CBI and other agencies, for ever.
Nevertheless the leaders share the view that they would be free to maintain their own independent identities. Obviously it implied that the opposition party should have the privilege to lead the opposition group in the state where it has a strong base. TMC in Bengal, RJD and JD(U) in Bihar, Samajwadi Party in UP. The Congress will lead the opposition in the states where it has its strong support base.
The urgency of Nitish’s mission could be realised from the simple fact that he met two leaders in two states in one day. In the morning he discussed the unity issue with Mamata and in the evening he landed in Lucknow to talk to Akhilesh. Yadav. Mamata agreeing to Nitish initiative is being viewed as the major gain for the stature of the Bihar chief minister as the main catalyst for opposition unity.
What added to his endeavour is Mamata’s suggestion to Nitish to explore the possibility of launching a movement like JP’s Bihar movement. Her reference to JP movement has in fact a broader and deeper implication. She perceives the opposition unity move as the movement to bring about fundamental changes in the system and governance. Modi has trampled the system and the mechanism of governance. Since JP had launched his movement from Bihar, Nitish Kumar can relaunch the second phase from Bihar itself. In 1974 all the opposition partied had left behind their egos and political identities and rallied behind JP. Though, Mamata was an active Youth Congress worker during JP movement and she demonstrated against JP in Calcutta, time has changed. Mamata wants to be the part of a wider movement of the opposition parties to sweep away the BJP from the power at the centre.
Till the saffron regime’s measure to have Rahul disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha, Mamata had been a bit reticent. Since his disqualification, however, she has been showing signs of recalibration in her approach of untouchability towards the Congress, for which she was being fiercely criticised and accused of aiding the BJP by parties, mainly the Congress and the CPI(M) in Bengal.
Nitish who had met most of the opposition leaders in his first round of the unity effort will be convening a major meeting of the opposition leaders very soon, possible in June. He said “We decided that all political parties should unite and fight against the BJP together. We will have more such discussions in the future and decide on the future course of action. Whatever we decide should be for the benefit of our nation. The party that is governing our country has no care for development. If you look at the history of our nation, those who didn’t take part in our freedom struggle, are today determined to change its history, so that future generations are unable to learn the truth about the past”.
One thing is also absolutely clear that the unity will not have any common ideological base. It would be based on common minimum programme. The regional parties have their own independent ideological and political approach. Even in the states where there are more than two regional groups, they share different policies. But for the sake of defeating the BJP and keep Modi away from power they have agreed in principle to come together. The opposition leaders feel the unity effort would have to undergo a major test in Bengal and UP. TMC and the combination of Congress-Left are quite hostile to each other. In UP the leaders would have to burn midnight lamp to sort out the differences between SP and BSP and other smaller parties.
Nonetheless unity for the sake of unity will not do much good to the opposition. They would have to evolve their strategy to counter the agenda of Hindutva driven nationalism of BJP and RSS. The manner in which the RSS has geared its organisational machinery it gives rise to suspicion that BJP and RSS would go to any extent to keep the Delhi power under their grip. It is a known fact that B JP follows its own mechanism and norms of electoral politics to persuade, attract and manage voters. Barely a fortnight back the Hindu outfits were vehemently opposed to Christians and even broken their churches at some places, but now faced with the election compulsion, Modi has landed at their doorsteps in Kerala. Ironically this approach of PM is disliked by the RSS.
For the BJP the electoral success is the supreme task and in fact it has been defining the democracy in this backdrop. Their approach is one sided. The electoral success for a party in a democracy does not always produce favourable political outcomes. But the BJP and RSS have reversed this basic concept. This is the reason that RSS and BJP have projected Modi’s image as the political symbol of election winner. Getting peoples’ mandate in 2024 Lok Sabha polls is necessary to accomplish the task of turning India into a Hindu Rashtra. (IPA Service)