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September 5, 2022 8:26 pm

Nitish Rahul Meet

BIHAR chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi and the two leaders discussed ways to forge opposition unity. This is the first meeting between the two leaders since Kumar walked out of the NDA in Bihar and formed a grand alliance government with the RJD, and the Congress.  Nitish is also likely to meet other opposition leaders including the NCP’s Sarad Pawar, the AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal,  JDS supremo H D Kumaraswamy, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and leaders from the Left parties. Kumar is trying to bring all opposition parties together to take on the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Kumar is being touted as a potential opposition leader to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Speaking to the media soon after leaving the NDA, Kumar reinforced this view by reiterating his desire to work for opposition unity, a project he couldn’t accomplish in his previous stint as a major opposition leader.  Would he pull it off this time around? The chances remain moot. In fact, his ability to do so may be more diminished now than ever before. Kumar may continue to be a nationally-known high-profile leader, but the support base of his party in Bihar has considerably depleted, affecting his standing as a credible political opponent to the BJP.

But, at the same time, it would be a mistake to discount Kumar’s ability to reinvent himself. During his previous stint as the BJP opponent, Kumar had called for the formation of a Third Front to take on the saffron party in 2019. It, however,  didn’t materialize.

Kumar’s effort for opposition unity comes amid the Congress programme to launch padyatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. The party has already unveiled the Yatra logo, slogan and website. The slogan is ‘Mile Kadam-Jude Vatan,” which is an attempt to convey a message that runs counter to the Hindutva narrative.

As is apparent, the yatra is part of the party’s preparation for 2024, although the party is projecting it as an apolitical exercise. But the moot point is whether the march will connect with the people. Though only a small number of people will be part of the yatra, its success will be determined by how many more people will join it across the twelve states through which it is due to travel. And also how many people will attend Gandhi’s public interactions. So, in a sense, the yatra and Nitish’s meetings with political leaders in New Delhi will be a political bellwether: it will make it clear whether the Congress and with it the wider opposition, stands a chance in 2024 against the BJP juggernaut, an unlikely prospect.

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