Political differences may dent grand alliance goal

Amulya Ganguli

The basis of the Opposition challenge to the BJP in the forthcoming State Assembly elections and next year’s general election is the formation of an alliance of regional parties. As is known in political circles, this togetherness will not be easy to achieve in view of the mercurial temperament of some of the leaders and the conflicting demands of the various parties.
Only in Uttar Pradesh has a credible combine emerged comprising the Samajwadi Party, the BSP, the Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal. Even then, their well-wishers will keep their fingers crossed in the hope that the coalition will survive the test of time.
U.P. is not facing any major election in the near future, but Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh. Rajasthan and Mizoram are. While Mizoram is off the national political radar at the moment, the focus is very much on the other provinces and the possibility of a tie-up between the Congress, the BJP’s main challenger in the three states, and the BSP.
However, nothing has been formalized at present although the elections are not too far away. The reported reason for the delay in reaching an understanding between the Congress and the BSP is the latter’s demand that any alliance between the two parties has to be in all the three states – and perhaps also at the all-India level – and not in Madhya Pradesh alone, as the Congress wants.
It is such sticking points which can spell disaster for a united challenge to the BJP. In a way, the scene in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will be the first test of the idea of a Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) on the lines of what was set up in Bihar in 2015 where the BJP was roundly defeated soon after its spectacular 2014 triumph.
However, if the Congress and the BSP fail to reach an agreement in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan – Madhya Pradesh is unlikely to pose any problems – it will show that the Mahagathbandhan will remain a mirage. Such a setback will be tantamount to conceding Round One to the BJP.
But reaching an understanding with the BSP is not the Congress’s only objective at the moment in Madhya Pradesh. Instead, the 133-year-old formerly Grand Old Party will be more preoccupied with the infighting for which the party has always been known in the state.
Although former warriors like Arjun Singh and Madhavrao Scindia are no longer in the scene, their successors on today’s battlefield like the Congress chief in the state, Kamal Nath, former chief minister Digvijay Singh and the scion of the Scindia family, Jyotiraditya, are believed to be warily circling one another to avoid being upstaged by their rivals in the party.
As may be expected, the bone of contention is the Congress’s chief ministerial face – an issue of considerable importance because the party has convinced itself that it is going to be a cakewalk over the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government.
Kamal Nadu apparently regards himself as the front-runner although Jyotiraditya, who sits next to Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha, must also fancy his chances since he is one of the leading lights of GenNext which has been expecting achhe din for themselves at the expense of the old guard ever since Rahul Gandhi became the Congress president.
Although Digvijay Singh has ruled himself out of any race for the top position, he cannot be discounted if only because he is known for being a loose cannon, as he once described himself. Notwithstanding the fact that opinion polls have ruled in the Congress’s favour, the BJP may still be hoping against hope because of the possibility of the three Congress musketeers undercutting one another.
But it isn’t only in Madhya Pradesh where the Congress is being troubled by its familiar malady of factionalism. Karnataka is the other arena of its ambitious leaders. Although the Congress was, for once, nimble-footed enough to outwit the BJP in the game of numbers by teaming up with the Janata Dal (Secular) – which Rahul Gandhi had once described as Janata Dal (Sangh Parivar) – and forming the government, the manoeuvre entailed the sidelining of the Congress’s Siddaramaiah, who was earlier the chief minister.
As part of a deal to secure the Janata Dal (Secular)’s support, the Congress offered the chief minister’s position to the former’s leader, H.D. Kumaraswamy, a concession which has riled Siddaramaiah if only because the two men have been rivals ever since both were in the Janata Dal (Secular). Hence, his assertions that he is going to be the chief minister again.
The two have aired their differences over the state’s budget and the location of a film city and now there are rumours about Siddaramaiah being in touch with the BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa. The result is that ever since the formation of Kumaraswamy’s ministry, the focus has been on the internal fissures rather than on governance.
There is little doubt that even if the government survives, it cannot be held up by the Congress and other parties of the national opposition as a shining example of their ability to unitedly take on the BJP. (IPA)

Monday, 10 September, 2018