Amidst the current euphoria over the Ram temple consecration in Ayodhya, the Opposition I.N.D.I.A grouping has its task cut out to achieve its single most important goal of ousting the BJP government in the general elections that are just a few months away. How it strategizes to achieve this goal is important. If the parties in the bloc are only aiming to improve their individual tallies, it is unlikely that they will rock the BJP boat, given that the saffron party has got everything in order, be it caste affiliations, welfare schemes or its appeal among the poor and marginalised. The only thing that will help the I.N.D.I.A alliance is a genuine attempt at seat-sharing whereby egos are discarded and the best candidate to defeat the BJP nominee is chosen for each and every seat. This essentially means that parties like the Congress must agree to cede seats to powerful regional allies like the Trinamool Congress in Bengal, Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, or RJD/JD-U in Bihar. In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Congress can have a larger share of seats as it is in direct contest with the BJP there. In Punjab and Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party is a force to be reckoned with and the Congress will have to come to terms with it. Among the southern states, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana will see the Congress taking most of the seats. However, in Tamil Nadu it will have to bend to its regional partner, the DMK. All this negotiating requires cool heads and rational thinking. In this regard, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has proved to be the right man for the job, given that his experience and his connect with the people have earned him the respect of all the parties in the grouping.
In UP, a beginning has been made by the I.N.D.I.A alliance with the SP and RLD of Jayant Chaudhary arriving at an understanding on seats in the influential western belt, a stronghold of the Jats. The Congress continues to have an exaggerated sense of its importance in the key heartland state. Having won only one seat in the 2019 elections, it must come to grips with reality and concede the bulk of seats to the regional parties. Mayawati’s BSP, though much weakened, still enjoys pockets of influence but so far it has stayed away from the I.N.D.I.A alliance. In Bihar, there appears to be some uncertainty. Amit Shah certainly set the cat among the pigeons with his cryptic remark that the BJP would consider any proposal for erstwhile allies to return to the NDA, hinting at a rethink by Nitish Kumar who is purportedly unhappy with the I.N.D.I.A bloc for not giving him a key role. The reshuffle in the JD-U whereby Lalan Singh was replaced as party president by Nitish Kumar is indicative that all is not well in the Mahagathbandhan. With the Lok Sabha elections only weeks away, this does not bode well for the Opposition grouping that seems to be totally unprepared to take on the BJP juggernaut. There is no cohesive strategy in place, nor is there any command structure in the grouping. While Kharge has been unanimously chosen as the chairperson, there is no clarity on who the convenor will be. The Opposition parties’ reaction to the Ayodhya temple consecration is another case in point. Apart from the Left parties, who immediately refused the government invitation on the grounds that a religious ceremony was being turned into a BJP-RSS event, all the other parties dithered in their responses. The Congress waited till the last minute to reject the invitation, accusing the saffron party of politicising a religious event. In the process they have allowed the BJP to take credit for the temple, a matter of faith to millions of Indians. The consecration ceremony has been turned into a virtual PR blitz by the Narendra Modi government with the entire nation’s eyes riveted on Ayodhya and the Prime Minister who presided over the ceremony. A pliant media that is now single-mindedly focused on the temple consecration has virtually ignored the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra of Rahul Gandhi which is on a two-month Manipur-to-Mumbai journey traversing 15 states. Therefore, the I.N.D.I.A bloc is at a distinct disadvantage in the electoral stakes. It faces an uphill battle and only a miracle can help it succeed. And history has proven that miracles are few and far between.