By Sushil Kutty
The June 12 Patna conclave of opposition parties is keenly awaited. Finally, opposition unity looks a possibility. Rahul Gandhi and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge are giving it a miss, but somebody from the Congress will be deputed. Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is in the United States taking pot-shots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular and certain peculiarities of India and Indians in general.
Kharge wouldn’t be present maybe because he doesn’t want to forestall Rahul Gandhi by taking a stand on opposition unity – anything he says on the issue will automatically be taken as the Congress party’s official stand because Kharge happens to be Congress President though it is Rahul Gandhi who calls the shots. Kharge’s tragedy is, he does not have sole prerogative over the powers of the Congress President.
That said, not all is lost. Rahul Gandhi is not against opposition parties forging unity. Gandhi is confident the BJP can be beaten in general elections 2024 if the opposition parties are all “aligned properly”. As far as Rahul Gandhi is concerned, the Congress was already ahead of other parties in forging opposition unity. And it (opposition unity) was “coming along very nicely”.
That said, to defeat the BJP called for an “alternative vision”. The former Congress President termed himself a “political entrepreneur” and he sees “clearly” the BJP’s “vulnerabilities” – the BJP can be defeated if the Opposition is “aligned properly”. The Karnataka elections did the trick. The disqualified MP from Wayanad was lukewarm about the Himachal Pradesh victory. And the Congress defeat in Gujarat did not count.
But the Karnataka victory was directly linked to the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Rahul Gandhi says everybody knows that the Congress defeated the BJP in Karnataka, but what is “not well understood is the mechanics that we used”. Listening to Rahul Gandhi is believing that he has worked out a strategy to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2024.
Rahul Gandhi’s strategy does not need tweaking. And it is simple, straightforward: “The Congress party used a completely different approach to fighting an election and building a narrative. The elements of what happened in Karnataka came out of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.” The results of the May 10 Karnataka elections are aligned with Rahul Gandhi’s thesis.
Rahul Gandhi’s “alternative vision” to defeat the BJP has already made a successful debut and the Congress party will not yield to any other “alternative vision”. This, when the remaining opposition parties are trying to forge unity around the Modi government’s “ordinance” that struck down the Supreme Court order which by an overwhelming verdict of a Constitution bench gave Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi government control over “services”.
Since then, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been to all opposition-ruled states and has met the Chief Ministers of those states, drumming up unity against the “illegal ordinance”. The call to unity over the “ordinance” is working – every opposition party has responded positively; the results of which will resonate at the Patna Conclave. Call it Kejriwal’s “alternative vision”, and a rallying point for all opposition parties.
Kejriwal’s “alternative vision” is based on defeating the BJP even before 2024, demoralize the Modi & Shah election juggernaut ahead of the general elections by defeating Modi and his “ordinance” in the Rajya Sabha. The BJP does not have a majority in the Upper House, which holds hope.
However, in Rahul Gandhi’s playbook, defeating the BJP in 2024 requires more than just opposition unity. He believes the Bharat Jodo Yatra is the first step of his alternative vision, on which all opposition parties should be “aligned” with. Rahul Gandhi wants to make “Bharat Jodo Yatra” the Opposition’s 2024 slogan and rallying call for defeating Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is no ‘Ab ki Baar…’ for the 2024 Modi.
“No opposition party would disagree with the idea of the Bharat Jodo Yatra” was Rahul Gandhi’s message from California to the June 12 Patna conclave. The 3,750 km ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ (September 7, 2022-January 31, 2023), led by Rahul Gandhi, covered 12 states, including Karnataka, which the Congress has won. Elections are due later this year in the “BJY-states” of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.
While unity is important and paramount to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi is perhaps right that “aligning the opposition parties” is more important. The electorate should not be confused about the motives of the opposition parties coming together. Will this message find resonance at the June 12 Patna Conclave of the opposition parties? At the end of the day, there is more than one “alternative vision” to hand Modi the defeat of his life. (IPA Service)