BJP leaders Shatrughan Sinha, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie have reportedly expressed support for this.
The idea of Opposition unity, and the tactics of leading non-BJP parties seeking to combine in various ways to confront the BJP juggernaut — which powers a mean election machine — in the next Lok Sabha election, appears to be metamorphosing, and for the first time gaining an outline that wasn’t quite visible earlier.
The clearest sense of this comes from the statements of West Bengal chief minister and Trinamul Congress boss Mamata Banerjee, after her confabulations with a range of non-BJP parties, as well as rebel BJP elements, in New Delhi earlier this week. After the first day of meetings with leaders and MPs of the NCP, DMK, RJD, TRS and BJD, Ms Banerjee spoke — for the first time — of the need to support the main Opposition party in each state against the BJP. She also declared her keenness to visit Lucknow if invited by the SP and BSP, the two important regional parties which after a 25-year animosity appear to be sailing together in order to dislodge the BJP.
This approach of the TMC leader, who in recent months has been speaking out against the BJP, and has given the impression of being interested in the top job by gaining the support of regional parties (not necessarily that of the Congress), is very different from the idea of the “federal front” that gained currency after she confabulated with TRS leader K. Chandrasekhar Rao some weeks ago. This front was meant to be “anti-BJP, anti-Congress”. That thought appears to have now receded into the background. Indeed, since the first articulation of the idea of supporting the principal Opposition party in each state against the BJP had come from Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the Congress plenary earlier this month, it may be said Ms Banerjee had no hesitation in supporting and further circulating that idea.
Interestingly, after calling on UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday,
Ms Banerjee became more explicit and spoke of “one against one”, which means setting up a single Opposition candidate against the BJP to avoid splitting of votes.
BJP leaders Shatrughan Sinha, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie have reportedly expressed support for this. In an indirect way, so has the CPI(M). Writing in his party organ, former CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, who is otherwise opposed to the idea of an “alliance” with the Congress even to defeat the BJP, has now spoken of electorally backing the Congress in places where that party is the largest Opposition force challenging the BJP.
All these ideas represent a clear advance in the outlook of the Opposition parties in the direction of collaborating to challenge the BJP in the next election. This doesn’t rule out dissonances at a later date. But a scaffolding of cooperation appears to be slowly emerging.