Cutting across party lines, important leaders of opposition parties begun talks about a joint challenge to BJP in the next national elections. Can they all really for a big alliance? What will be BJP’s strategy to counter the move?
As part of efforts to “unite as many opposition parties as possible” to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav met Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi as also Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal this week.
Sources said there will be a meeting of opposition parties by the end of April after consultations with them and Nitish Kumar and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge will talk to the opposition parties. After the meeting, Kharge talked of fighting the polls unitedly. Rahul Gandhi also talked of “standing together and fighting together”. Kejriwal said it is essential for all opposition parties to unite and oust the BJP-led government in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
The meetings are being seen as an attempt by Congress and other opposition parties to take forward their “unity” displayed during the budget session of Parliament session that concluded on April 6. The opposition parties also slammed the government over the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha following his conviction by a Surat court in a criminal defamation case.
Rahul Gandhi described the meeting with Janata Dal-United and RJD leaders as a “historic step” towards opposition unity and for an ideological fight. Rahul Gandhi, who posted a picture of Kharge and him with JD-U and RJD leaders, said they are “standing together, will fight together – for India.”
“In this battle of ideology, a historic step has been taken today towards opposition unity. (We are) standing together, will fight together – for India!” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.
Answering queries, Rahul Gandhi said that bringing together opposition parties is a process and the opposition parties will develop their vision for the country. “All the parties that come along, we will take them along in the ideological battle that is going on in the country. The attack that is happening on the institutions, we will fight it together. An important step has been taken,” he said.
Janata Dal-United president Rajiv Ranjan (Lalan) Singh was also present at the meeting held at Kharge’s residence. Nitish Kumar said they will try to unite as many parties as possible. “We will try to unite as many political parties as we can and move forward together. We will sit and deliberate on the way forward. We have had discussions. Those who agree with us…we will then take decisions about the future. A lot of people will come together,” he said.
Kharge had earlier this month telephoned Nitish Kumar, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in an effort to build on “unity” displayed during the budget session of Parliament. Congress is a junior part of the ruling Mahagathbandhan in Bihar which also includes JD-U and Rashtriya Janata Dal. While Nitish Kumar leads the government, Tejashwi Yadav is the state Deputy Chief Minister.
Kejriwal said after his meeting with Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav that they discussed the present political situation of the country in detail. “Got the opportunity to felicitate the Chief Minister of Bihar Shri @NitishKumar ji and Deputy Chief Minister Shri @yadavtejashwi ji at my residence today. The present political situation of the country was discussed in detail,” Kejriwal said in a tweet.
Addressing the media, Kejriwal lashed out at the BJP government at the Centre and said that it is the “most corrupt” government after independence. “This is the most corrupt government in the country after independence and it is essential for all opposition parties to unite and change the government in power,” he said.
Kumar also talked of opposition unity. “We will try to unite as many political parties as we can and move forward together,” he said.
Opposition leaders have in the past made efforts to forge a broad unity to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. However, the task is not easy due to their competing political interests. AAP and Congress are rivals in Delhi and Punjab. AAP is seen to have damaged the prospects of Congress in the Gujarat assembly polls held last year.
Similarly, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are unlikely to concede any space to Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Apart from BJP, Trinamool Congress also sees Congress and Left parties as rivals in West Bengal. Left parties and Congress are rivals in Kerala.
But as part of efforts to forge opposition unity to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday met Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Rahul Gandhi with the discussions centring on the need talk to other parties and to move together in the fight for various issues concerning people.
Kharge said Pawar came directly from Mumbai and “provided us guidance”. He referred to the talks yesterday after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav met him and Rahul Gandhi. ” “Yesterday we talked that we will keep opposition unity and work to save the country, democracy and protect the Constitution…issues like freedom of speech and expression, employment to youth and inflation, misuse of autonomous bodies, we are ready to fight unitedly on all these issues and will talk to all the parties one after the other,” Kharge said.
He said Pawar also said that he will talk to various opposition parties and try for a united fight in the future. “We should all work together for the nation and in its interest and this why we are meeting. The like-minded parties, others we should take all along, there was discussion on this,” he said.
Pawar said a process has to be started for opposition unity and this just the beginning.
But BJP leader and Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur took a swipe at the opposition parties over their efforts to forge unity to take on the BJP in the 2024 elections and said these parties were coming together for ‘Maha thug Bandhan’.
Thakur said opposition parties do not have leadership or policy and will not get the support of the people. “The 22 years of politics of Narendra Modi from CM to PM have been honest and full of dedication. Where is the contest?” he asked.
Also, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Thursday took a jibe at the meeting of the opposition parties held in the national capital. “The person (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) who has taken a resolution in his life to make India a prime leader on the world stage, 130 crore people of the country have joined him and this is the reason that there is a disturbance in the opposition. They are organising meetings late at night, not in broad daylight,” Scindia said. He added that PM Modi is hosting the tricolour on the world stage. The belief of every citizen of India is with PM Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday himself launched a scathing attack on the Opposition saying that credit-hungry people or those whose only ambition is to lord over the country has done much harm to it.
He added that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in the service of the nation and its people and commitment and devotion to the country are at the core of its efforts. Addressing the public gathering in Guwahati, Assam, ahead of the historic Bihur celebrations, PM Modi too aim at the Congress, saying, “Whenever I talk about the development of the Northeast over the last nine years, some people get disturbed because they can’t claim credit for the growth in the state.”
“They complain that they, too, ruled the country for decades. Power and credit-hungry leaders, whose only ambition is to lord over the country, have done much damage to our people,” added the PM.
While the national election is still more than a year away, the Opposition parties have begun to get their act together to make a direct challenge to Modi-led BJP. The ruling party too has sensed the threat and getting ready to tackle it. Indian politics seems to already entering the election mode for 2024.