By Nitya Chakraborty
Just one year is left for the holding of the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April/May 2024. The non-BJP opposition parties are having discussions for building a comprehensive unity of the opposition political parties who are determined to remove Prime Minister Narendra Modi from power at the coming Lok Sabha polls. This can be done by the opposition getting on its own majority seats out of the total of 543 or in the case of a hung Lok Sabha, by joining with the other fence sitting non-BJP parties to deny the Prime Minister another term as the leader of the BJP led NDA.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had extensive discussions with the opposition leaders early this month. His talks with the Congress Party including Rahul Gandhi have been most encouraging. He talked of total opposition unity before the polls. Rahul Gandhi has shown no big brother attitude during discussions. At the instance of Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary K C Venugopal met the Shiv Sena faction chief Uddhav Thackeray and both of them expressed their desire to continue to work for building a front against the BJP. Nitish Kumar will be meeting other leaders including Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, BRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik.
Now let us look at the hard reality of the political situation in the states. It looks politically correct to talk of one opposition candidate against one BJP candidate but in practical terms that is not possible in many states taking into account the strength of the regional parties as also the national parties. The nature of alliance will vary from state to state in the Lok Sabha elections. There cannot be any uniform formula to be imposed on the opposition parties including the Congress. With this in mind, efforts can be made by the opposition parties to find out areas of optimum understanding between the contesting opposition parties so that there is maximum mobilisation of non-BJP votes against the concerned BJP candidate.
Right now, in four states Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, the opposition alliance is working fine. Excepting Maharashtra, the alliance is ruling in the other three states. This will remain before the Lok Sabha polls. In fact, this can be further expanded if the leaders feel it necessary.
Then there are states where the Congress is the dominant opposition party as against the BJP. These include Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal. In these states, the Congress will be deciding party in respect of the Lok Sabha seats. Right now, the Congress is ruling party in Himachal, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The state assembly elections are taking place in Karnataka on May 10 and in the other states excepting Himachal later this year. Congress performance in Karnataka assembly poll will have a catalytic effect on the poll campaign in other states by the end of the year.
Then there are another group of states, where the Congress is a weak political party compared to the regional parties which are in power. These states are Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. In Bengal, Trinamool Congress is in a position to fight BJP alone and the state’s political situation is that there is no question of any understanding between the Left Front led by the CPI(M), the Congress and Trinamool to take on BJP. TMC will fight alone, the Left and the Congress can join hands to fight both. All the three non-BJP parties need to protect their political turf, so there is no use talking of anti-BJP alliance in Bengal.
In Telangana, BRS is being attacked both by the BJP and the Congress. BRS chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao will try his beat to defend the state in the next assembly elections later this year. The performance of the BRS in the assembly poll will determine its next course of action. All indications suggest, it will be difficult to have an understanding between the BRS and the Congress before the Lok Sabha polls. Andhra Pradesh case is different. YSRCP chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy is taking a position against both the BJP and the Congress but he is having good relations with the PM Narendra Modi. YSRCP will fight on its own in the Lok Sabha polls and indications are that it will get majority of the Lok sabha seats.
As regards Odisha, BJD chief minister is worried about BJP foray but he is not going to have any relations with the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. Then Delhi and Punjab states are there ruled by AAP. In Delhi, BJP is the main opposition party and in Punjab, Congress is the main opposition party. AAP has no member in Lok Sabha now, Arvind Kejriwal will like to get elected maximum members to Lok sabha from Delhi and Punjab in 2024 to play a national role. So there is no question of any understanding with the Congress.
Then there is the case of Kerala where out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats, the Congress led UDF got 19 seats in 2019 Lok Sabha polls leaving only one seat to the ruling state party CPI(M). The CPI(M) will naturally fight in 2024 polls with determination to get some extra seats so that its Lok Sabha tally increases from the present 3. The hike in Left tally is important because the Lok Sabha strength of a political party is of crucial importance in playing a meaningful role in the post election scenario. The Left, especially the CPI(M) had its golden period after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections when the Left got61 seats, CPI(M) alone 41 and CPI-10. This big strength helped the Left to play the most prominent role in installing the Congress led government.. Those days will not return, as even now, on the basis of its present strength the Left cannot hope to get any Lok sabha seat from Bengal in 2024 polls. All the additional seats have to come from Kerala.
So that way, taking a realistic view of the state level political scenario, the opposition should follow a flexible strategy to unite the non-BJP opposition parties on a common platform which will give enough flexibility to the regional parties to fight the BJP on their own. All signs are there of a hung Lok sabha after 2024 Lok sabha polls. The opposition parties may review the post poll scenario and approach the regional parties like BJD and YSRCP for cooperation.
Once it is clear that the BJP is not coming back to power, these parties as also many parties of the North East will change sides and extend support to the non-BJP government. For the main opposition, the Congress, the victory in Karnataka assembly polls followed by the other three states by year end is the surest guarantee to get the confidence of the other regional parties who doubted the Congress capacity to defeat the BJP on its own. The combined opposition has to take its steps with caution and wisdom. The ground is fertile for bringing about a regime change in India after 2024 Lok Sabha elections. It now depends on the political expertise of the leaders of non-BJP opposition parties to mobilise maximum non-BJP forces before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls so that the BJP’s number of Lok Sabha seats gets reduced from the present 303 to 180 in the new Lok Sabha. (IPA Service)