Unified Field Theory: on Non-BJP Alliance

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Editorial: The Hindu

Opposition parties need to agree on a political agenda and a tactical alliance to defeat the BJP

A string of defeats is the common thread holding the Opposition parties together against the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Ideological divides have been papered over and tactics reworked in the quest to stop the BJP from getting a second consecutive term. The post-poll alliance stitched together by the Congress with the Janata Dal (Secular), which allowed for the swearing-in of JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister, provided the occasion for a show of hands in unity in Bengaluru. But more significant than winning over the JD(S) was the presence of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati on the front stage. Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, still the most respected leader in her party, seemed to share a special moment on the dais with Ms. Mayawati.

Of course, the ground for the coming together of the Congress and the BSP was set much earlier, when the BSP announced support for the Samajwadi Party in the Lok Sabha by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies. If the success in the two by-elections presented a rational argument for a larger pre-poll alliance, the BSP’s loss in the Rajya Sabha election following the cross-voting engineered by the BJP gave an emotional edge to Ms. Mayawati’s determination to stop the BJP in the next election. An SP-BSP-Congress-RLD alliance will have the look of a mahajot in Uttar Pradesh, and galvanise Opposition parties elsewhere to make the most of any anti-BJP sentiment.

But the real test for a Congress-led Opposition is to generate an agreed policy programme that will have the support of all the disparate groups. Some of these parties share nothing more than an antipathy to the BJP, while others have allied with the BJP in the past. In many cases, electoral rivalry, and not ideological dissimilitude with the BJP, is the reason for fighting it. Crucially, parties such as the Trinamool Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi are not yet ready to accept the leadership of the Congress in a broad coalition of anti-BJP parties. The TRS has the Congress as its main rival in Telangana, and the Trinamool could possibly be arrayed against an alliance of the Left and the Congress in the next general election. Even the newly formed alliance of the Congress and the JD(S) could run into difficulties on seat-sharing as the two parties are the principal rivals in the southern parts of Karnataka. And the Left will be fighting the Congress in Kerala even if it is amenable to seat adjustments with it in other States. Thus, building a viable alternative to the BJP is far more difficult than coming together for a swearing-in ceremony and raising hands in unison. The Congress will need to show leadership as also a willingness to step back and accommodate smaller, regional players in yoking together an alliance of this nature.

This article was originally published on 26 May 2018 in The Hindu.

 

JUNE 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 11










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