Oppn parties join hands at Mamata rally to oust Modi

Oppn parties join hands at Mamata rally to oust Modi

Leaders of India's main opposition parties join their hands together during "United India" rally ahead of the general election, in Kolkata, India, January 19, 2019. REUTERS

That 2019 Lok Sabha polls will be a fight between regional parties and Narendra Modi led BJP, with Congress getting into backseat driving, is the message that goes out loud and clear from the United India Rally hosted by Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal.

The Congress, which sent its lawyer-spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi and its leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, tried to fit in somewhere in the Modi versus all discourse as Opposition leaders repeatedly dismissed BJP’s questions on leadership saying the  focus now is not on who would be leader as it can be taken up later.

The gathering at the Kolkata rally, both in terms of the number of people and the leaders who addressed, is impressive given the reality of the ambition clashes of regional satraps.

When Rahul Gandhi addresses the Congress’ 'Jan Aakansha' rally at Gandhi Maidan in Bihar capital Patna on February 3, comparisons are bound to be drawn as his party has also invited opposition leaders across the spectrum.

The selection of Patna as venue is symbolic as Congress is veering round to the view that in 2019, there will be two Opposition alliances fighting against NDA--one Federal Front of non-Congress regional parties and the other led by Congress. Bihar is a classic case, where Congress is in alliance with dominant partner RJD and Hindustan Awam Morcha to take on NDA with Nitish Kumar’s face in the state.

In Uttar Pradesh, which sends maximum number of 80 MPs to Lok Sabha, SP, BSP and RLD forged an alliance against BJP keeping Congress out of it. Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats and is the fourth on this count after Maharashtra, which has 48 Lok Sabha seats and West Bengal, which has 42. Congress has already sewn up an alliance with NCP in Maharashtra, while in West Bengal it is still contemplating choosing between Trinamool Congress and Left as the latter can accommodate it in much more number of seats than Mamata.

Sonia's message

In Kolkata rally, which neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi attended, Sonia in her message said the rally marks an important attempt to galvanise leaders across the political spectrum and wished it success as she trained guns on Modi dispensation.

There is a view in Congress that 2019 is not so much about pre-poll alliances than post poll, and if BJP can somehow be pegged at 150 and Congress could get near that figure, the latter will find it easier to get allies.

Sensing that 2019 is not 2014 and Modi wave alone is not going to help BJP contain the impact of alliances, BJP has off late started citing how its first Prime Minister successfully led alliance governments in the past.

BJP's ex-allies

A number of the regional parties, which vowed to uproot Modi regime in Kolkata rally, had allied with BJP in past—be it the host of the rally Trinamool Congress or National Conference from Jammu and Kashmir or both Samajwadi Party and BSP from Uttar Pradesh. N Chandrababu Naidu was an ally in Modi government till March this year.

The good thing for the Congress is that JDS Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, whom it propped to form government in Karnataka after failing to get numbers, has taken a categorical stand against the BJP at the rally. Kumaraswamy had in past tied up with BJP. 

But politics is not always a repeat of possibilities. One thing is clear 2019 is wide open and both Congress and BJP will have to aggressively woo the regional parties to the finish to come to power.