Editorial: Forging An Alliance Under Fear

Editorial: Forging An Alliance Under Fear

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Sunday, February 25, 2024, 07:31 PM IST
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After the initial euphoria of banding together of 26 parties under the banner of Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A) in Patna and subsequent meetings in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi, the reality check came a few weeks later. Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister gave a jolt, declaring that there was no question of seat-sharing in her State; she would go it alone in Bengal. In Punjab, the ruling Aam Admi Party ruled out any alliance with the Congress party. In UP, the main Opposition Samajwadi Party dilly-dallied, ticking off the Congress for acting high-and-mighty, refusing to concede even a single seat for the SP in the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh in the Assembly poll. Now it was the SP’s turn to pay back, keeping the Congress on tenterhooks over the alliance in UP. Meanwhile, JD(U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, hitherto the main motivator for the dotted alliance, punched its leaders in the solar plexus, and one fine morning he upped and rejoined the NDA, forming government with the BJP. Other shocks for the Congress party came from its own big and not-so-big leaders who dumped the party and joined the BJP. The exodus was one-way and towards the BJP. The biggest name among them was a former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan. Speculation about former MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath is yet to die down, though it is reported that the MP unit of the BJP finds itself overcrowded, what with a surfeit of ex-Congress leaders. Meanwhile, the Congress spirits failed to get the much-expected boost from Rahul Gandhi’s Yatra 2.0. As is his wont, amidst tepid response, the Gandhi dynast continued to make trademark verbal faux pas. Meanwhile, the high-octane BJP campaign got a huge lift-off from the highly-publicised consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. All these events together helped to undergird the BJP claim of 400 seats, 370 for itself and 30 for allies, in the coming parliamentary poll. It is in this backdrop that the Opposition parties hurriedly resumed the tricky business of seat-sharing again. The euphoria over the temple made Akhilesh Yadav concede 17 out of 80 seats to the Congress in UP. Maybe the Congress will conced a seat or two to the SP in MP in return for the generous offer it received in UP where it has little or no presence any longer. In Delhi, the AAP supremo and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, finding himself in the crosshairs of the Enforcement Directorate over the monumental liquor excise theft agreed for the Congress to contest on three of the seven seats in the national capital. In return, a chastened Congress, suffering diminution of its ranks every other day, agreed to spare two seats for AAP in Gujarat and on out of ten in Haryana.

The sheer fear of a third term for Modi had forced the big-boasting leaders of the dotted alliance to become a little more realistic, forcing the Congress Party to come to terms with its much reduced circumstances. It can no longer play the big daddy of politics with its vastly diminished standing with the voters. As the reality sinks in further, parties in the dotted alliance in Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, etc., are expected to settle seat-sharing without further bickering and recriminations in the coming day. Since the poll notification is expected to be issued in the next fortnight or so, the Opposition alliance is under pressure to compose their differences and try and present a united front to the voters against the monolithic BJP which is relentless in its effort to consolidate its hold over the voter with highly visible infrastructural development and various welfare schemes benefiting the people directly without third-party intermediation. In a way it is early days yet, but the Opposition is a long way from presenting a united face with a credible programme for the voters to vet and approve or reject. However, you cannot fault the voter if he is cynical about the Congress bitterly fighting AAP in Punjab and two in alliance in Delhi. Such “friendly” fights invariably are harbingers of an early break-up amidst the poll or afterwards, particularly if neither party wins. Indira Gandhi famously said that “two zeros” still will remain zeros. The challenge for the Opposition parties is forge an ideological unity — and not an opportunistic seat-sharing alliance — without which Modi’s BJP is likely to have a walkover in the coming Lok Sabha poll.

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