New electoral gathering

A road map will be discussed in Mumbai meeting which assumes a lot of significance
"Sources said that Mamata played a crucial role in pacifying Kejriwal and used her good offices with Sonia Gandhi also which was responsible for change of scenario as it could ensure the enlisting of support of AAP."
"Sources said that Mamata played a crucial role in pacifying Kejriwal and used her good offices with Sonia Gandhi also which was responsible for change of scenario as it could ensure the enlisting of support of AAP."Special arrrangement

India National Developmental Inclusive Alliance ( I.N.D.I.A.), the new name for the joint opposition front, having two successful rounds of discussions in Patna and Bengaluru, will be confronted with some serious challenges to face the stature of Modi.

In this backdrop, Congress has taken lead in giving an evidence of its commitment to ensure logical end of new front which is reflected on AICC president, Malika Arjun Kharge that his party is not interested in PM’s post and it will bring those regional satraps in comfort zone who are opposed to Grand Old Party.

Second, Congress has proved Rahul Gandhi’s stance that it will be ready to make any sacrifice to oust Modi which was witnessed when party took one backward step and announced its decision to oppose Delhi ordinance bill in Rajya Sabha.

Third, Congress strategists had made a sitting arrangement in Bengaluru in a way that Mamata Banerjee was seated in between Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi which was aimed at giving an impression of ‘forget and forgive’ to achieve a bigger goal.

Mamata had always enjoyed a close relationship with Sonia Gandhi but the new gesture may bring her closer to Rahul who was seen exchanging views with her.

Challenges ahead

Political observers believe that the predominant factor for convergence of regional satraps, several opposition parties, and Congress, having divergent ideologies and inflated egos, pertains to scare created by the Modi government through investigating agencies like ED, CBI, Income Tax department, etc.

Owing to this compulsion, west Bengal chief minister, Mamata was first to exhibit flexibility in Patna conclave when she ignored Delhi CM, Kejriwal’s tirade against Congress over its non-committal stand on ordinance hence he had kept himself away from press briefing also which gave handle to BJP to express doubt about the chances of unity amongst these leaders to come together.

But Congress announced its support to Kejriwal in Rajya Sabha to oppose the ordinance which paved the way for the participation of AAP in Bangalore. Sources said that Mamata played a crucial role in pacifying Kejriwal and used her good offices with Sonia Gandhi also which was responsible for change of scenario as it could ensure the enlisting of support of AAP.

Seat sharing

With the announcement of the formation of an eleven-member coordination panel, a new Road Map will be discussed in the Mumbai meeting which assumes a lot of significance and relevance to take the entire exercise to the next level. Being a Pan India party, Congress will be the main player to make the dream of leaders of 26 parties a reality because it may be required to make more sacrifices after the Delhi imbroglio. Second, regional satraps are dominant in their states including Mamata in West Bengal, Kejriwal in Delhi and Punjab, M.K.Stalin in Tamil Nadu, even Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Nitish Kumar and Tejeshvi Yadav in Bihar, Pinaravi Vijyan in Kerala, etc. hence they will demand lion’s share in overall numbers of Lok Sabha seats.

Third, Congress has got capacity and potential to take on BJP one to one in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal which will make it logical to give maximum share to the party. Congress does not have chance in West Bengal, Delhi and Punjab thereby putting it on back foot; and flexibility will be a key element to reach on seat sharing arrangements in 2024. APP had acted as a vote cutter in several states like Goa, Tripura, Karnataka etc. hence it may be expected not to field its candidates to ensure the victory of dominant party which will be taking on powerful BJP.

Fourth, BJP had won 196 seats out of 218 in Hindi belt in 2019 but erosion has taken place in Bihar and Congress ruled states which may make it difficult to retain such big numbers. Fifth, BJP will be devoid of unimaginable nationalist issues driven by fallout of Pulwama attack leading to surgical strike by army which had created Pro Modi sentiments and feelings of patriotism in rural as well as urban areas in the country. BJP is poised to bank on Hindutva again and contest 2024 on issues like Ram Temple, abrogation of 370, Uniform Civil Code and achievements of NDA government. But experts say that it is extremely difficult to predict the impact of these emotive issues as burning problems like unemployment, skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, prices of cylinders, petrol, diesel etc. are haunting the voters who had ignored the open exploitation of Bajrang Bali appeal in Karnataka. But the mindset of people in Hindi belt is different and BJP may exploit it through its fulfilment of long-standing poll promise of Ram temple construction though final seal of settlement was put by the Supreme court.

PM face of  I.N.D.I.A?

BJP’s Unique Selling Point (USP) is Modi and his capability to win the assembly and Lok Sabha for saffron party which will be put to test in 2024. It had not worked in Himachal and Karnataka though BJP had ignored the then CMs including Jai Ram Thakur as well as  B.S.Bommai in these states and made Modi as the face of polls. It will be different in 2024 as Modi will focus BJP campaign on his appeal to give him chance to serve for 3rd term and BJP leaders are confident that it will make the difference especially when opposition parties may not have an effective face of high statute to lead them

In this complex scenario, it will be a herculean task for 26 parties to agree on a name that will be acceptable to all. Experts say that Congress has ruled itself out of this battle which may make the task easier and zeroing in on Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar who has been instrumental in taking initiative and bringing warring regional leaders at one platform. Nitish is acceptable to the leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Kejriwal, even Stalin, after Rahul’s elimination from the list besides Sharad Pawar, Udhav Thakre, left leaders, etc. Mamata is upbeat after her entailment of ties with Gandhi family hence she has hinted even her acceptance over the name of Rahul if consensus is evolved in future.

Analysts opine that Mamata’s aide and Rajya Sabha member of TMC from West Bengal had tweeted a message written in green and white color,  “I.N.D.I.A….Chak De India. Ebar Lodrani Hobey, Khela Hobey” which sums up the mood prevailing amongst the leaders of 26 opposition parties. One thing is clear “Virodhi Partiyon Ke Liye Dilli Abhi Door Hai Aur BJP Ki lye Bhi Dilli Ki Satta Ko Pakad Ke Rakhans Assan Nahin Hai”

(Writer is political analyst and senior journalist based in Shimla)

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