In India, the 2024 general elections are approaching, and the possibility of a national opposition unity is being discussed. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has consolidated its position in the country, and it seems that the opposition parties are realizing the need to come together to challenge the BJP’s dominance.
The need for opposition unity
The BJP has dominated Indian politics in recent years, winning several state elections and securing a massive mandate in the 2019 general elections. However, the opposition parties have not been able to put up a strong fight against the BJP, mainly because of their fragmented nature. The opposition parties have failed to come together to form a united front to take on the BJP, leading to their repeated defeats in elections.
The BJP has been successful in exploiting the fault lines within the opposition parties, playing on regional and ideological differences to weaken the opposition. The BJP’s success in winning over regional parties and leaders has further weakened the opposition, leaving them with little room to manoeuvre.
The opposition parties have realised that their inability to unite is hurting their prospects, and they are now making attempts to come together to challenge the BJP’s dominance. The recent alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Shiv Sena in the West Bengal assembly elections and the Congress forming an alliance with the DMK in Tamil Nadu are examples of such attempts. Though the Shiv Sena finally did not put up any candidate in the state, the tacit understanding stays.
The role of the Congress
The Congress is one of the oldest and largest opposition parties in India, and its role in bringing the opposition parties together is crucial. However, the Congress’s recent electoral performances have been dismal, and it has lost ground to regional parties in several states.
To bring the opposition parties together, the Congress needs to change its approach towards regional parties and leaders. The Congress needs to understand the regional aspirations and demands of the regional parties and leaders and work towards accommodating them.
The Congress needs to shed its arrogance and work towards building a consensus among the opposition parties. The Congress needs to realize that it cannot lead the opposition unity alone and needs to work towards sharing power with other opposition parties.
The Congress needs to focus on building a narrative that resonates with the people of India. The Congress needs to focus on issues such as unemployment, agrarian distress, healthcare, and education, which are affecting the lives of people across the country. The Congress needs to build a coalition of people who are disillusioned with the BJP’s policies and are looking for an alternative.
Generating a consensus
Generating a consensus among the opposition parties is essential for a successful opposition unity. The opposition parties need to agree on a common agenda, which should include issues such as unemployment, agrarian distress, healthcare, and education.
The opposition parties need to agree on a common strategy to take on the BJP. The opposition parties need to understand that they cannot win by fighting separately and need to work together to challenge the BJP’s dominance.
The Congress needs to reach out to the regional parties and leaders and work towards building a consensus among them. The Congress needs to understand that the regional parties and leaders are the key to opposition unity and needs to work towards accommodating their demands.
The Congress needs to build alliances with the regional parties and leaders and work towards strengthening them. The Congress needs to realize that it cannot win elections in several states alone and needs the support of regional parties and leaders.
Critical recent events
There have been some critical developments of late that could start the formation of an opposition consensus, before any coalition of sorts is even thought of. The first was Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which elicited great response across the length and breadth of the country. Pubic memory is short, but hopefully this long event will stay in the minds and hearts of the people who came out in droves.
Added to that was the defamation suit levelled against Rahul, and a Surat court giving him the maximum teo-year punishment that disqualified him from being a member of the Lok Sabha (see Box). That, actually went in Rahul’s favour, somewhat backfiring on the BJP, when Rahul decided to milk the sympathy of the people in this act. That is a plus that the Congress can work upon.
There were more events that see a slow development of national unity. It is an arduous, uphill task, but Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge is more acceptable to other pareties than any Gandhi family member.
Mission 2024 is the target: Kejriwal
On April 11 Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal met Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav in Delhi, and said that it is “extremely important for all the opposition parties to unite and change the current government in power.” Slamming the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, Kejriwal said, “This is perhaps the most corrupt government at the Centre since Independence.”
The Delhi CM also lauded his counterpart from Bihar. “Nitishji is making efforts towards uniting everyone and the opposition parties,” he said while speaking to the media. “I am completely with him,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kejriwal also shared pictures from their meeting on Twitter, and wrote: “Got the opportunity to felicitate the Chief Minister of Bihar Shri @NitishKumar ji and Deputy Chief Minister Shri @yadavtejashwi ji today. The present political situation of the country was discussed in detail.”
The Bihar CM, on his part, said, “I had a word with him (Kejriwal) in the past. Today, I met him again and it was decided that we will unite the maximum number of opposition parties.”
Earlier in the day, Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav met Congress boss Mallikarjun Kharge and senior leader Rahul Gandhi.
Gandhi – whose disqualification from the Lok Sabha last month has spurred opposition unity – said that it is a “historic step” to unite the opposition. “We will develop the vision of the opposition parties and move forward… we will stand together for the country. You ask ‘how many opposition parties are needed (to defeat the BJP)’? This is a process… as many as want to join us, we will all proceed together. We are in an ideological battle for the country,” he said.
In a joint press conference with Kharge, Gandhi and Yadav, Kumar said, “We will make all efforts to unite more and more parties in the country. We will make all efforts, sit together, and work unitedly. “After today’s discussions, we will move forward on that basis. All those who agree will sit together and decide the future course of action,” he added.
Notably, several Opposition leaders, including Congress, RJ(D), and JD(U) reached Kharge’s residence. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, JD(U) chief Lalan Singh, Congress MP Naseer Hussain, Rajasthan Congress chief Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa were present during the meeting. Congress leaders Mukul Wasnik and Salman Khurshid also attended the meet.
Recently, Kharge has spoken with a number of leaders from the opposition in an effort to unite the parties with similar goals in order to defeat the BJP.
He has communicated with Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin, and Uddhav Thackeray, the former chief minister of Maharashtra, and he is likely to meet other opposition leaders in the coming weeks.
Big trouble for BJP in Karnataka revolt
Meanwhile, the announcement of the first list of candidates for the Karnataka assembly election appeared to have opened Pandora’s Box for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP unit in Karnataka is facing a massive revolt by its state leader after they were denied ticket for the upcoming state assembly elections. Expressing discontentment over not getting a party ticket to contest the upcoming polls, BJP MLA Raghupathi Bhat alleged that “not a single leader has called till now and told me why I didn’t get a ticket”.
Several senior leaders, former CMs, Deputy CMs and prominent leaders seemed to be unhappy with the party’s decision, with former deputy CM Laxman Savadi having already quit the party.
The BJP released its first list of candidates, featuring 189 candidates, of whom 52 are contesting for the first time. Among the new candidates are 32 from Other Backward Classes (OBC), 20 from Scheduled Castes (SC), and 16 from Scheduled Tribes (ST) communities.
After the massive revolt, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said that both high command and he himself are talking to the senior leaders. “We are hopeful that this will be sorted,” he added.
Former CM and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy has said that many leaders will join his party. “I will release the second list of candidates tomorrow,” JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy said.
Ahead of releasing the candidate list, Bommai had asserted that the party is taking “tough” decisions to create a new system. Meanwhile, Shettar claimed that he was asked by the party top brass to make way for youngsters.
The recent turmoil in the BJP could impoct the Karnataka elections slated for May this year. The voting for the elections will take place on May 10 and the results will be declared on May 13.