The statement of Ms Banerjee, who has always been sceptical of the Congress
The proposal of Trinamul Congress chairperson and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee that the Congress contest 200-odd seats where it has the potential to win in the Lok Sabha election and support other Opposition parties where they, in turn, are strong indicates that those parties previously not very keen to come on a common platform with it have started considering it following its victory in Karnataka.
To ensure a one-on-one fight with the NDA in each of the Lok Sabha seats is the necessary but not sufficient condition for the Opposition’s attempts to unseat the ruling alliance from power.
But to win, it will have to convince the people that it will be a coherent force with a plan to run the country. A single-point agenda of taking down the Narendra Modi-led NDA is not enough. The Opposition parties have been divided on the role of the grand old party in a rainbow coalition. There are some, like the DMK of Tamil Nadu, which have decided that the Congress is at the centre of it, while others such as the Bharat Rashtra Samithi of Telangana CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao fight the Congress on its home turf and are hence opposed to an alliance that includes the Congress. There are fence-sitters like the Samajwadi Party, too. The statement of Ms Banerjee, who has always been sceptical of the Congress, indicates that the Trinamul has now come around to the idea that the Congress has a role in Mission 2024.
Ms Banerjee’s suggestion calls for some attention because the BJP is out of power in several large states, while in some others, the party circumvented the people’s verdict through unfair means. It shows that the electorate is not particularly interested for the BJP to run governments, but they see no viable alternative and hence opt for the best available choice. This must explain why the BJP sweeps the parliamentary elections even in states where they lose in the Assembly polls.
There are two steps towards lending Ms Banerjee’s suggestion viability. Someone from the Opposition ranks must work hard with a pointed agenda to sort out the issues amongst the various Opposition parties. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has already been meeting leaders who are opposed to the NDA for some time now. NCP president Sharad Pawar, obviously an elder statesman, has declared that he, too, is willing to take up the job.
The most important impediment, however, will be to convince the Congress to come off its high horse. The first response of the West Bengal unit of the party rejecting with contempt Ms Banerjee’s statement illustrates that it is not yet ready to do so. The party must claim its due wherever it can call the shots but must concede the point that it can only play party pooper in several other states. It must see to it that its Karnataka win contributes to the Opposition effort to create a common front rather than detract from it.
A well-thought-out response to Ms Banerjee’s proposal by all Opposition parties could be the first major step towards the creation of a larger front ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.