It is not a new thing for 18 opposition parties to get together and take photographs. This has happened many times in the past as well. But, this time a new thing is being seen that such parties are also gathering in Patna which had objections regarding Congress. For example, Arvind Kejriwal, Akhilesh Yadav and Mamta Banerjee are gathering. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi are also coming. Before this, small parties used to come, but they did not have any effect. The second important thing is that what method do these leaders adopt to corner the BJP. Meetings and pictures can generate enthusiasm among the workers, people who are unhappy with the current government may also see an alternative, but what will be the strategy has to be decided.
The opposition parties have decided their mantra that they will fight one versus one on every seat. That is, in front of every candidate of NDA and BJP, only one candidate of the opposition will stand. They feel that the 62 percent votes that non-BJP parties got in the 2019 elections, if they unite in good numbers, can become an opportunity to defeat the BJP. This is his real mantra, rest of the issues are not that important. If the opposition parties want to contest elections on this strategy, then all 18 parties are not needed in it. Like, Nitish Kumar will not decide what will be the equation in West Bengal, Mamta Banerjee and Congress will decide it there. Similarly, Kejriwal and Congress will have to decide, not Mamta Banerjee in Delhi. Similarly, in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav will decide whether to contest the elections in alliance with the Congress or, if not, with which smaller parties other than his ally, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, he would like to ally.
Congress already has alliances with other parties in states like Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu. Apart from this, there is a direct fight between Congress and BJP on about 200 seats. But coordination is necessary on these seats as well. For example, Sharad Pawar’s NCP fields its candidates in Gujarat, due to which votes are cut. Similarly, Mamata Banerjee fielded her candidates in the Goa elections. Due to these, the competition can also be affected. But, no such situation should be created, it will have to be decided by the leaders of Congress and regional parties. This decision will not be taken by a group of 18 parties. That is, the opposition has yet to decide how the system of one versus one competition will be, who will be given how many seats and who will solve any problem if it arises.
For example, Sharad Pawar’s political stature is such that he can call the leader of any party and solve the issues and get the seats settled. It seems to me that this attempt to unite the opposition is too hasty. Right now these parties should focus on their respective areas and strengthen themselves and only then talk about unity and one versus one fight. I can see that there is a psychological effect of their efforts, but no concrete progress is seen from this.
As far as Congress is concerned, Rahul Gandhi has told Nitish Kumar that he will not be in leadership role in 2024 elections, but will fully cooperate with the united opposition. But as easy as it is to say, it is more difficult to do. The situation of the Congress is such that it has to bow down and show activism as well, because it is seen that people have more hope about Congress as an alternative. If we take the example of minority vote, in Karnataka we saw that they distanced themselves from JDS because they probably felt that only Congress can defeat BJP. In such a situation, if Akhilesh Yadav has to garner minority votes, he will have to coordinate with the Congress because without it the Muslim vote may get divided. Similarly, in the by-elections in West Bengal also, it was seen that Muslim votes went in favor of Congress, due to which Mamta has become worried. In such a situation, if the minority votes are to be united, then the Congress will have to avoid arrogance and will have to distribute seats with other parties according to its real position.
I think the strategy of Congress is totally different from the strategy of BJP. Narendra Modi is the trump card for BJP, whose popularity is still intact. BJP has a strong leader, there is an issue of nationalism, there is an issue of Hindutva, there is an issue of social welfare schemes. But now he will appear in front of the public on three big things in the elections. First, the new Parliament, which is the Parliament of post-colonial India. Second, the image of India’s Vishwaguru, in which he will also present Prime Minister Modi’s visit to America and the G-20 summit to be held in September, for which all the powerful leaders of the world will reach India. And the third will be the Ram temple, which will be inaugurated in January. The BJP will enter the elections citing these three big things as the achievements of Prime Minister Modi. In comparison, the opposition will have to make a completely new plan because it does not have such a big leader who is acceptable to all. This is a reality and its weak link too. So instead of fighting it, they will focus on their different strategy which is one vs one fight on every seat.
The opposition is also raising issues like inflation and unemployment, but converting them into popular slogans is a challenge. BJP will not discuss these issues at all because it is their government. She will contest the election by making India’s pride an issue that the world is looking at India with pride. In such a situation, the opposition will have to tell what is its idea to get out of the economic difficulties. He will have to clearly tell what definite steps he will take to provide economic relief to the people and all the parties will have to agree on this. The opposition will have to fight the election by discussing its strength, not by attacking the strength of the BJP.
(based on conversation)
(These are the personal views of the author.)