Leaders of 14 Opposition parties attended the hosted by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on August 3 to chalk out a common strategy to raise issues affecting the common man and target the Bharatiya Janata Party in the ongoing monsoon session of the Parliament.
After the deliberations, the leaders cycled their way to Parliament House to highlight the issue of rising fuel prices.
The 14 parties which were present apart from the Congress include Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, Abdullah’s National Conference, Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party, Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Mamata’s Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India, Community Party of India (Marxist), DMK, Shiv Sena, Kerala Congress (M), Loktantrik Janata Dal, Indian Union Muslim League and Revolutionary Socialist Party.
Rahul called for Opposition unity, underlining that the more it is united the more difficult it will be for the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to suppress this voice.
"The single motive to invite you is that we should unite.The more this voice unites, the more powerful it will become, the more difficult it will become for the BJP and the RSS to suppress this voice," Gandhi said at the meeting.
"We should remember the foundation of unity and it is important that now we start to come up with the principles of this foundation," he told the Opposition leaders.
While Congress termed the meeting as historic and a grand success, facts prove otherwise. These points debunk the Congress party’s claim of success in creating a joint Opposition platform against the BJP.
1. Majority Opposition was not present
Many regional parties like Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, Owaisi’s AIMIM, KCR’s Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, Jagan’s YSR Congress, Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular), Badal’s Akali Dal, Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party and Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party were absent from the meeting.
While BJD, TRS and YSRCP may be termed as pro-BJP or neutral, all the other seven parties mentioned above are anti-BJP. Their absence says a lot about the practical challenges that will be faced while building a joint Opposition.
The Congress and the BSP are wooing the same Brahmin and Dalit vote in Uttar Pradesh. AAP and SAD are principal opponents of Congress in Punjab. AIMIM and Congress compete for the minority vote in Telangana.
Relations between Congress and JDS have soured in Karnataka after the fall of their coalition government. The TDP and the Congress alliance has failed in Telangana. PDP and Congress have been adversaries in Jammu and Kashmir.
2. 17% MPs of both Houses didn’t attend the meet
The parties present in the meeting have 116 MPs in Lok Sabha and 80 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. 92 Opposition MPs of Lok Sabha and 41 of Rajya Sabha were absent. This amounts to 17% of the total strength of the Parliament which didn’t take part in the Opposition unity meet.
3. 1/3rd of non-BJP-ruled state parties skipped the meet
There are 12 states with non-BJP/non-NDA governments in India. Out of these only 8 parties attended, four (1/3rd) didn’t take part.
4. No party from North East was present
The meeting didn’t have any representation of regional parties from the North East. Congress party’s alliance partner in Assam, AIUDF also skipped the meeting.
Challenges in shaping up a joint Opposition
The politics of many parties is rooted in anti-Congressism like YSRCP, BJD, TRS. Many regional parties were formed to take on the Congress in states. In some states Congress is still the main Opposition to regional parties and not the BJP.
Many regional satraps were earlier in the Congress and do not enjoy a good rapport with the Gandhis like Jagan, KCR. Many parties still are more anti-Congress than anti-BJP.
Many fence-sitters are still not able to convince themselves that Congress and Rahul can take on the might of Modi and the BJP. They still believe the BJP has a strong chance to make a comeback in 2024 and want to be in the Centre’s good books.
Allies like TDP and SAD which have exited NDA still want to keep the door of ghar wapsi open. Many regional chieftains are senior to Rahul and can’t accept his leadership.
All of this means that the Congress and some regional leaders like Pawar and Mamata are chasing an elusive dream called ‘joint Opposition’.