By Arun Srivastava
For naysayers it was a the doomsday as the “historic meet” between Nitish Kumar and Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday in presence of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge not only sent a vibrant message that opposition unity was no more an illusion but would strengthen the ideological narrative of the opposition fight against the RSS and BJP politics of hatred and divisiveness . Further, it will also provide a new vision to the parliamentary politics.
The importance of the meet could be attributed to the remark made by Kharge and more importantly by Rahul Gandhi as it being historic. Ever since Nitish parted ways with the BJP in August last year he had been advocating and soliciting the support of the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Notwithstanding high stake claims of leaders like KCR and Mamata and even Arvind Kejriwal, he was sure that no alternate to the Modi rule could be thrown into the public domain without the Congress joining the opposition rank.
At one stage even some of the Congress leaders cold shouldered him. This had a very bad impact on the unity prospect and even some expert commentators and intellectuals along with the RSS and BJP leaders started forecasting a very depressing scenario. Silence of Rahul on the issue, simply aggravated the situation and even put Nitish in a precarious situation.
The meeting between Rahul and Nitish has been indeed historic in many ways. First, it was a severe rebuff to Modi’s oft repeated rhetoric that country would eventually have dynastic rule. Secondly, it sent a loud and clear message that the opposition has in its rank many challengers to Modi. Third, it made clear that the task to cleanse the country of the bigotry and divisive politics would not come to end by simply defeating the BJP at the election. Instead a sustained ideological struggle would have to be unleashed against it and it would be accomplished by Rahul.
Nitish’s comment after the meet is worth taking note; “The decision is final; we will try to maximise Opposition unity. We will meet again, a larger group, whoever agrees to come and move forward.” Kharge was categorical: “We had a historic meeting, discussing lots of issues. We decided to unite all the Opposition parties and fight together. We will work together to achieve this objective.”
Though Nitish had initiated the process of uniting the opposition just after coming out of NDA, he had met almost all the leading opposition politicians, two issues have been the major obstacles; first, who will lead the opposition as its public face and what should be role of the opposition leaders in leading the fight against Modi. The body language of Rahul sent a strong message that he is not the contender for the top job and Nitish would be fulcrum of the unity exercise.
Rahul said: “What Khargeji and Nitishji have said about uniting the Opposition… is a historic decision. How many is a question of process. A vision has to be developed, whoever wants to come and join the ideological battle. Institutions are under attack; in fact, the country is under attack.” The RSS and BJP supporters and sympathisers have been desperately trying to create confusion and even some of the rightist political parties, whether they claim to uphold Hindu or Muslim cause. Have been at the forefront to misguide the people. They did never talked about RSS, BJP and Modi government were crushing democracy and the democratic ethics and institutions. For them to protect an d promote their own cause has been more important.
In sharp contrast the prime concern expressed by the leaders at the meet was to save democracy and to achieve this they shard one common belief that till the BJP is defeated all contentious issues and mutual differences should be set aside. No doubt some parties who survived on anti Congress stance it would be hard proposition to stand along with it. In view of this it was decided Kharge will talk to parties friendly with the Congress and Nitish will reach out to parties which nurture a grudge against the Congress. There will be no criteria that would exclude any non-BJP force and every single Opposition party will be approached, it was decided. It is a known secret that Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP, the Aam Aadmi Party and Chandrashekhar Rao’s BRS have been opposed to Congress but they have strong bondage with Nitish.
Some opposition leaders nursed the feeling that Rahul was for Congress going to polls alone. But their notion proved to be wrong. True enough Rahul on his part strongly advocated the broadest Opposition unity. It was he who cameout with the suggestion that a three-day conference of like-minded parties should be held in near future to iron out differences and draw up a common road map and to define the agenda.
One thing is certain that the opposition parties are not going to fall into the trap of RSS and BJP and adopt soft attitude towards Hindutva. Their primary focus would be on secularism and secular values and ethics. The basic tenet behind this has been to oppose whatever their political opponent propounds. A soft countering to RSS and BJP agenda would push the opposition into their trap.
The meeting taking a month ahead of the Karnataka assembly election is unlikely to have any impact the on the existing political scenario and equation in the state. The opposition sources however maintain this understanding is primary for the Lok Sabha election. Even then any move from the Congress and JD(S) leaders in this perspective would be appreciated.
Some opposition leaders feel that the historic meet took place coinciding with Modi losing fresh and new weapons to attack the Congress. His rhetoric has has lost relevance. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot termed “unfortunate” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark that railways had become an arena of politics under previous governments. Modi yesterday had said that the decisions taken during the tenure of earlier railway ministers were influenced by corruption and political considerations. Modi in the changed situation must tell the people what his government has done to ameliorate the economic condition of the poor, dalit and youth.
Wednesday was indeed the precious day for the opposition, especially Nitish. In the evening the chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, lauded Nitish’s effort and pledged his “complete support” for the cause. Incidentally some opposition leaders nursed certain amount of apprehension towards him. But he dispelled it by saying;” the country is passing through a very difficult time. This is perhaps the most corrupt government at the Centre since Independence. So, it is extremely necessary that the entire Opposition and the country come together and change the government at the Centre”.
It was significant to watch that the leaders participating at the historic meet completely ignored the statement of Sharad Pawar on Rahul. They decided that Nitish should talk to him. Later Rahul tweeted that the Opposition leaders had pledged to raise the people’s voice and provide new direction to the country; “We will protect the Constitution and save the country”.
With holding of this historic meeting Nitish has significantly refurbished his image of being the real Chanakya. The BJP sources have taken aback at the swift development of the political scene. With this Nitish has moved ahead one step towards his mission. He succeeded in motivating the Congress leadership to take the call for unity, as the time is running out. His strategy is to restrict the BJP from getting more than 100 seats. Strange indeed the meeting has an electrifying impact on the Congress men of Bihar. Just after news of the success of the meeting poured in the party took out a big rally to celebrate the gains. (IPA Service)