Will Mamata’s bid to unite opposition for 2024 battle against Modi bear fruits?

by K.S. Tomar

Buoyed by unprecedented victory in state elections outsmarting the most powerful Modi-Shah duo, Mamata  anerjee, West Bengal chief minister,  has set out on an almost impossible mission of laying the foundation of creating a joint opposition front to take on BJP in 2024 parliamentary elections in the country.

The task is difficult as regional opposition parties are having their satraps who are obsessed with their contradictory ideologies, inflated egos, selfish motives and inflexibility which  may create hurdles in clinching the alliance.
But politics is improbable as it does bring friends and foes together provided the goal is common.
In Mamata Banerjee’s recent sojourn in Delhi she tried to sell the idea of the obligation of forming a  joint front to take on the BJP which has got vast resources, back up of RSS and has a strong leader in Narendra Modi, all that the opposition is missing.

In her enthusiasm in the wake of applying the break on BJP’s journey outward from the Hindi heartland, Mamata has coined a new slogan ‘Modi versus Country’, to symbolize countrywide resentment against the center owing to downslide in economy, serious fallout of the pandemic, unemployment, loss of jobs, price rise, etc.

Poore desh me khela hoga.  This is our hope for 2024,” she told reporters in Delhi.

Mamata is playing her role as a catalyst to mobilize opposition leaders. Hence, she  met  archrivals Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi though her party kept away from
joining the ten parties in a joint move to submit a memorandum to the President of
India about the security threat posed by the snooping scam. The grapevine in Delhi has it that individual ambition and aspirations will come in the way of their joining hands.
Political observers foresee two emerging scenarios which may become a reality to take on Modi in 2024.
First, Congress has a good standing in states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal, where it has full capacity to take on BJP on many seats one-to-one. Rest of the parties will have to settle for leaving these seats to Congress, which might enhance the chances of the party winning more seats.
Second, ‘Mahagathbandhan’ can focus on those seats which fall in
their respective areas of influence like in Uttar Pradesh (Samajwadi Party
and Bahujan Samaj Party), in Odisha (Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal), in Telangana (CS Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi), in Andhra Pradesh
(N. Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party), in Delhi (Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi
Party), in Maharashtra (Maha Vikas Aghadi Gathbandhan), Karnataka (JD-S). Together with Congress strongholds and of course Mamata’s Trinamool, there are around 340 parliamentary seats out of a total of 543 where opposition parties if they join hands stand a chance of winning a sufficient number
of seats to cross the halfway mark.

Mamata has refrained from projecting herself as a possible candidate to snatch
the post of chairperson of UPA from Sonia Gandhi. In real sense, even Sharad Pawar is limited to Maharashtra, which may prove his biggest handicap besides strong opposition from Congress if he is projected as leader of the joint
Mamata met Sonia on ‘Chai pe Charcha’ to discuss the political situation in the country, a meeting attributable to efforts of Prashant Kishore who has
exchanged views about possible political realignments in 2024 with
senior leaders like Pawar. Prashant has made it clear that
opposition unity will be a farce without Congress which has got pan
India appeal and the rest of the parties are confined to their states.

BJP has already sharply reacted to the desperate attempt of Mamata and compared such a combine with the 1977 ‘Khichdi Sarkar’ which fell like a house of cards. The party may project the newly discussed alliance as having one point program: to oust Modi as they do not have a common ideology or vision for the country.
But  BJP may find itself on sticky wicket if the pandemic horror continues
and crores more get unemployed. Collapse of the industrial base and discontent of poverty-stricken people will add to the woes of the ruling party. Economy is on the downslide and the World Bank projection for India is worrying. Besides, skyrocketing prices of essential commodities have affected the day to day life of every citizen in the country.
One striking and interesting feature of 2024 will be lack of a forceful
nationalistic agenda as the one emanated from Pulwama type tragic incident
and air strikes on Balakot terrorists camps in Pakistan. Hence any emergence of a combined opposition front will be bad news for the ruling party.

Mr Tomar is a senior journalist and political analyst based in Delhi.

Image courtesy of (Photo courtesy PTI)

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