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Opposition prospects for 2019 LS poll bright
Congress and regional parties must shed ego to build solid unity
By Nitya Chakraborty
The results of the local bodies elections in Karnataka officially declared on September 3 have shown that the Congress is in a formidable position in the semi urban areas of the state as the leading party as against the BJP and with JD(S) alliance for the Lok Sabha poll agreed, the BJP is sure to face defeats in a large number of seats in this important state of the South. In Karnataka, the BJP got 17 of 28 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. As the trends suggest and the indications received from a large number of state based opinion polls, the Congress-JD(S) alliance is poised to get a minimum of 20 seats out of 27 in the coming Lok Sabha poll. The BJP"s central leadership is quite worried and despite considering a number of strategies, the top leaders have found out no viable way to maintain their strength.

Along with this positive sign in Karnataka, the signal from Bihar about expanding the grand alliance is also welcome. Reports suggest that the former JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar might be the common candidate of the grand alliance against the sitting BJP member in Begusarai constituency. Kumar is a member of the national council of the CPI and if he is nominated as a candidate, it means that the anti-BJP alliance will be expanded this time including the CPI and possibly the other left parties. Both the CPI and the CPI(ML) have got respective bases in Bihar and it can be mentioned that CPI was a very strong party in the state in sixties and seventies having five members in Lok Sabha.

The Bihar state CPI is having discussions with the RJD and the Congress and all efforts should be made to expand the anti-B JP alliance by including the CPI and the other left parties.BJP got 22 seats out of 40 in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll but the situation drastically changed during the 2015 assembly poll and now, latest assembly and Lok Sabha by election results indicate that the grand alliance is on ascendency. The JD(U) leader chief minister Nitish Kumar has lost immensely in the recent months in terms of his image. The expanded grand alliance led by RJD has a fair chance to get more than thirty seats out of 40 in the next Lok Sabha poll if the parties campaign jointly against the NDA in a vigorous manner. The victory in Bihar for the grand alliance is of prime importance in bringing down the seats of the BJP in 2019 poll.

The Congress is now reconciled to having some adjustments with the BSP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh for the assembly elections by year end. Both the parties have responsibility in making a success of this alliance. The leaderships should not stand on ego in respect of division of seats. If the BSP really believes that the BJP has to be thrown out of the centre in the next Lok Sabha poll, the assembly elections are a sort of semi final and the big victory of the Congress led alliance in the three states will create such a momentum in national campaign that it will be easier for the united opposition to combat the BJP onslaught in the 2019 elections. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has expressed his desire to accommodate the other parties in the emerging anti-BJP alliance and he has been saying that the BJP has to be defeated at any costs. That indicates that as the biggest party of the opposition, the Congress has to share more responsibility in building the anti-BJP alliance and the GOP has to ensure that small differences do not disrupt the anti-BJP combination. Former BJP leader and central minister Arun Shourie said on Saturday that the opposition parties must pledge to ensure they put up one common candidate against the BJP in every constituency. This is desirable but may not be objectively possible for political logistics in different states. Rather the formula mentioned by the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is far more practical. Congress will be the leader in the states where it is fighting the BJP as the major party. It will be having adjustments with the smaller parties but finally the responsibility will be with the Congress as the leader. But in the states, where the regional parties are the rulers like West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, the regional parties naturally will not leave space to the Congress in the name of anti-BJP alliance and there the figyt6s between the regional ruling party and the Congress can take place in Lok Sabha poll, but the understanding will be to be a part of anti-BJP alliance in post poll situation. Even under this two track approach, there is a possibility of a common opposition candidate in about 400 plus seats leaving about 140 seats out of the total of 543 seats. If a total unity of the opposition parties is made possible against the BJP in 400 seats, there is every reason to believe that the opposition should be able to gain more than 272 seats from this 400 figure and the seats from the other 140 seats where triangular fights might take place, will be additional. As Shourie explained the opposition need to remember that 31 per cent was the vote share Modi polled at the height of his popularity in 2014 and he is today much less popular and the opposition's starting percentage is 69 per cent if they have one common candidate against the BJP.As the 2014 Lok Sabha figures show that Modi became PM after 2014 poll because the BJP won 90 per cent of the seats in the states that contributes 60 per cent of the Lok Sabha strength. If the opposition combines in just three states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra that will be the end of BJP rule.

AS of now, the trends show that the BJP might gain a few seats in Odisha and a few more in North East. In Bengal, its number will go up at most by one or two. But taken together these eastern and NE states have 87 MPs whereas the states where the BJP made massive gains in 2014 poll , the loss also will be equally massive. All depends on how the saffron leadership can meet the challenge of the united opposition in the Hindi speaking states. In southern states, apart from Karnataka, the BJP has not much strength in other states. In Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the total number of Lok Sabha seats are 102. In 2014 poll, the BJP won four seats out of which in two seats, it had an alliance with Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh. Now, it might lose those two seats without its alliance with TDP. The BJP will try to get one or two seats in TN but that is not certain yet as the DMK led by Stalin is on upsurge and the AIDMK is so faction ridden that the BJP might not get any electoral advantage even if it aligns with the ruling AIADMK. If the Lok Sabha elections are not preponed in December and held in April/May 2019 as scheduled, the opposition, especially the Congress has to do two things - first the Party's election manifesto must reflect the aspirations of the masses, especially the young, unemployed and the farmers and it should form the core of the common minimum programme of the anti-BJP front, and second, the Congress must learn to act as first among the equals among the opposition parties and treat the smaller parties with compassion and dignity so that the anti-BJP front can be sustained on a long term basis.

Apart from Rahul, the front leadership should be equally shared by Mamata, Stalin , Akhilesh and Mayawati. Mamata has to play a major role in negotiating with the regional parties, even those belonging to NDA now for support in the post poll situation if the developments demand so. Sitaram Yechury and Sudhakar Reddy of the Left are always available to the anti-BJP front to properly advise in terms of the content of the CMP. The opposition has adequate set of leaders who can act as a team in navigating the course of the Front to achieve the ultimate objective of installing a non-BJP government at the centre after 2019 poll. The leaders must have the firm conviction that yes it is possible - "we can do it".

(IPA Service)


News Updated at : Wednesday, September 5, 2018
 
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