Fifteen-odd opposition parties’ massive rally at Kolkata on Saturday may have a message for the polity. It’s undecided as yet on the Prime Ministerial face to take on Narendra Modi in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi skipping the mega rally held by Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee speaks volumes though Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was deputed. Second notable absentee was BSP chief Mayawati that has a truck with Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh leaving the Congress out to fend for itself.
Most parties that were represented at the Kolkata rally have two things in common. One, they are at odds with each other in some state or partner. Secondly, their sheer hatred for Narendra Modi who’s seen as their main rival in the Lok Sabha elections.
Political discourse at the rally was familiar and getting a wee bit jaded as well i.e. dethrone Narendra Modi who’s an odd-man to about 100 political families that were once all powerful and slipped in their arc of influence.
There’s no alternative policy prescription that was offered by the Trinamool Congress-led show. Farmers and rural distress did get highlighted. But then, what’s opposition’s policy beyond loan waivers? Economic policy alternative as a campaign tool was also not offered in run up to Lok Sabha election.
On social development issues also, there’s no ‘food for thought’ as a serious cohesive political formation that’s gearing up to take on Narendra Modi.
One significant strategy that opposition parties seem to be working on is to support the strongest candidate that can defeat BJP. TMC chief Mamta Banerjee mooted this idea to decide on the party that will offer a substantive fight to BJP in possibly every Lok Sabha constituency.
West Bengal chief minister who’s a political war veteran may be right if opposition vote were to stay together and take on BJP. Big question is who will decide the ‘most effective’ candidate against BJP nominee? Here, the split in opposition ranks may show up and provide unintended advantage to BJP.
Deve Gowda perhaps touched upon a very tricky issue for opposition i.e. on providing a stable government if elected to power. His advise was to present a united picture, that could be a starting point. May be voters would take the opposition challenge to BJP seriously if they could be convinced that an assortment of political parties with differing ideologies could still stick together and govern effectively.
Another big message was that more such unity rallies of opposition parties be held in the next few months. This could perhaps be an attempt by these parties to bring about unity of purpose for their cadres and parties’ supporters. In several Lok Sabha constituencies, the opposition is bound to lose out if grassroots workers do not sing a ‘unity’ song as their leaders.
On the Prime Ministerial ‘face’, Akhilesh Yadav put the ball in people’s court. In all probability, he means that the party with largest number of Lok Sabha seats will lead the alliance. If that’s what he meant, then Mamta Banerjee and Mayawati may not easily give up in favour of Rahul Gandhi.
In effect, there’s a lot of ground that needs to be covered before opposition works a ‘lean, mean and effective’ machine with unity of purpose. They may be left with very little time to keep their flock together and simultaneously launch an offensive.
“Negativity” against Narendra Modi alone may not bring votes. Opposition will have to bring something more substantive to the table, only then can it realise the dream of staging a comeback at the Centre.