PTI Photo
PTI Photo

The Opposition conclave organized by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi to chalk out the future course against the BJP was a valiant attempt to clutch at straws when a cakewalk for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 general elections seems unstoppable. That Sonia was able to get representatives of 14 opposition parties on one platform is undoubtedly noteworthy. As things stand, she is the lone Opposition leader who can get so many parties together.

But so utterly lacklustre is the opposition that even a recent morale-boosting Rajya Sabha victory for her protégé Ahmed Patel could not breathe life into a moribund opposition. As is not unusual, her own son and heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi was not present with no one knowing where he had disappeared—whether he was on one of his foreign jaunts or was within the country. There was a studied silence on his whereabouts from the Congress party and it was increasingly being felt that he was irrelevant to Indian politics.

With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar having drifted away from the Opposition and joined forces with the BJP in Bihar, the only credible challenger to Modi is lost to the Opposition. Nitish has made it known that he will soon join the NDA and also the government at the Centre. That he voted for the Opposition candidate in the Vice-Presidential election was an aberration. There was another blow waiting for Sonia at the Thursday meeting in the shape of the virtual boycott by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), with strongman Sharad Pawar keeping away. Indeed, the Opposition is yet to get its act together and has very little time to squander. Most of all, the Congress, as the principal opposition party has to settle its leadership issue.

If Rahul Gandhi is neither interested nor equipped to be the leader of the anti-BJP formation, the mantle of heading the Congress and also the combination of opposition parties must fall on someone else. The consequences of foisting Rahul on the party and the group of parties would be grave indeed. In any vibrant democracy, there must be a strong opposition to keep the ruling dispensation on its toes. Such an opposition we are woefully lacking in. The Opposition can ill afford leaders like Nitish Kumar and Sharad Pawar breaking ranks with them. As things stand, the Opposition is directionless.

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