Uniting Opposition

IN an ongoing bid to foster opposition unity ahead of the 2024 general elections, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has volunteered to act as the interlocutor, held crucial meetings with Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi on Monday. The objective of these meetings was to finalize a date for a grand opposition gathering, probably in Patna, which had been in the pipeline even before the recent Karnataka assembly election which Congress won with a thumping majority.

The discussions between the leaders revolved around the prospects of opposition unity. Soon after the meeting, Kharge, in a Hindi tweet, said: “Now the country will be united.”  He said that they had discussed the current political situation with the Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar and taking forward “the process of giving a new direction to the country.”

Nitish Kumar has been successful thus far in garnering support from leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, all of whom have recognized the need for opposition unity. In recent days, Kumar also met with Arvind Kejriwal and extended his complete support in the ongoing confrontation with the central government over bureaucratic control in the national capital. His meeting with Mamata Banerjee resulted in the formulation of a “One-On-One” strategy, wherein strong regional parties would take on the BJP in their respective regions, while supporting the Congress in the constituencies where the two national parties directly contest each other. Banerjee, who suggested the idea of a mega meeting in Patna, believes that Bihar, historically associated with transformative movements like Jayaprakash Narayan’s, would be a suitable venue to chart the future course for the opposition. The recent swearing-in ceremony of Siddaramaiah in Karnataka, attended by prominent opposition leaders including Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav, Hemant Soren, Sharad Pawar, M K Stalin, and Farooq Abdullah, provided a platform for a display of opposition unity.

Despite his best efforts, Kumar was unable to secure the backing of Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha, known for offering issue-based support to the ruling BJP.. However Patnaik, at the end of the day, is not important enough, being leader of a small state. If the rest of the opposition is able to stick together, they can confront the BJP with a strong challenge. Karnataka outcome has given some understandable confidence to both the Congress and the wider opposition.  But as they say, the devil lies in the details. It remains to be seen whether the unity withstands the need to make sacrifiices and the concessions by the different parties. And without such sacrifices it would be a cakewalk for the BJP led by the prime minister Narendra Modi who remains an overarching political figure despite a decade in power.

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