Congress’s thinking, Nitish’s efforts and opposition’s apprehension…. Many screws are still left in anti-Modi mobilization
After the rise of BJP in Indian politics, anti-BJP parties have been trying to win over the Muslim vote bank on the pretext of anti-communal mobilization. In the past only Congress used to have influence on this vote bank.
It is natural for non-BJP parties to be happy after the Congress victory in Karnataka. It is another matter that this happiness was hardly visible at the swearing-in ceremony of Siddaramaiah on May 20 in Bangalore. The presence of the opposition leaders gathered there was only symbolic. There was no concrete indication of opposition politics. Despite this, the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, is vigorously trying to take command of the opposition unity. His meeting with former Congress President Rahul Gandhi and current President Mallikarjun Kharge can be seen from this perspective. But the question is, despite these meetings, will the Congress be ready to sacrifice its leadership for the sake of opposition unity? After the victory in Karnataka, will the Congress be ready to stay in the background in the opposition mobilization, as it was seen till before the Karnataka elections?
Before grappling with these questions, it would be appropriate to discuss the anti-central incumbency campaigns in the past. The way Nitish is trying to lead the anti-Prime Minister Modi campaign, it seems that he has resolved to overthrow Modi at all costs. Two months ago, his warlord Rajeev Ranjan Singh alias Lalan formed the executive committee of Janata Dal U under his chairmanship, but then KC Tyagi, one of the party’s top leaders, did not find any place. It cannot be that Tyagi’s departure would have happened without Nitish’s consent. Nitish is also the high command of Janata Dal U, as is the high command of dynastic parties. Even in Janata Dal U, the position of president is nothing in front of Nitish. But after launching the anti-Modi campaign, Nitish Kumar started to understand the usefulness of the same Tyagi. KC Tyagi has relations with leaders of all parties. Nitish hopes that KC Tyagi’s political connections can be an ally in opposition mobilisation.
It is natural for Nitish’s efforts to remind one of the opposition campaigns of 1987. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was battling allegations of Bofors brokerage. Under the leadership of Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Arun Nehru, Ramdhan, Arif Mohammad Khan and Satpal Malik took a different path from the Congress. At that time, Nitish Kumar was considered to be Sharad Yadav’s man and in those days, Devilal, Sharad’s political boss, was in power in Haryana. Then he had started the anti-Rajiv chariot of change. In those days, Andhra Pradesh leader Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao had taken out a yatra under the banner of Telugu Desam Party. In 1987, the opportunity for the entire opposition to unite came from the Allahabad by-election, in which VP Singh, Rajiv’s lieutenant, contested and defeated the Congress candidate and minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, Sunil Shastri. Sunil Shastri later joined the BJP.
But this time such unity is not visible. The Aam Aadmi Party was not invited to the swearing-in ceremony of the Siddaramaiah government in Bangalore on May 20. The Mamta Banerjee who got it, instead of coming herself, had sent her MP Kakoli Dastgar. Sharad Pawar was not even the strong face of opposition politics. Of. Chandrasekhar Rao was also not invited. Andhra Chief Minister Jagan Reddy was not supposed to get a call from the Congress. Naveen Patnaik, another important face of opposition politics, also did not turn up there. It is obvious that even before becoming the king of opposition unity, he was seen getting stuck in hiccups.
Remember the swearing-in ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy in the year 2018. Opposition stalwarts gathered in that function held in Bangalore, but the presence of the opposition was not significant in the Lok Sabha elections held the very next year. This time the entire opposition is not even there, so how can it be expected that the entire opposition against Modi will come under one umbrella?
The stalwarts of opposition politics are showing reluctance to side with the Congress after the Karnataka elections. The reason for hesitation is the Muslim vote bank. The entire Muslim vote bank in Karnataka went with the Congress. There is a belief about Muslim voters that whether it is Kolkata or Delhi or Banaras, Kasargod or anywhere else, they think almost in the same way. The way the Muslim voters have given outright support to the Congress in Karnataka, many anti-BJP regional parties are apprehensive. Especially the concern of leaders like Mamta Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav has increased the most. While Uttar Pradesh has around 18 per cent Muslim voters, West Bengal has around 30 per cent Muslim voters. While the Muslim voters of Uttar Pradesh have been with Akhilesh’s Samajwadi Party after the Ram Mandir movement, in West Bengal, after the rise of Mamata Banerjee, the Muslim voters have been consistently rallying with her. The Hyderabadi party All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen i.e. AIMIM, which came to these states with purely Muslim issues, neither got support in the elections of Uttar Pradesh, nor in the elections of West Bengal. The distance from Hyderabad to Karnataka is not much, but AIMIM got less than one per cent votes in the Karnataka assembly elections.
After the rise of BJP in Indian politics, anti-BJP parties have been trying to win over the Muslim vote bank on the pretext of anti-communal mobilization. In the past only Congress used to have influence on this vote bank. But in the era of the rise of the Ram Mandir movement and the growing influence of the politics of social justice, the Muslim vote bank drifted away from the Congress, coalescing around each party, which at the local level joined hands with the parties from which they felt communalism. The BJP was expected to be defeated in the name of protest. His hope was fulfilled by the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh till 2012, while in Bihar it was fulfilled by Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal. Similarly, the helm of the hopes of the Muslim vote bank seemed safe in the hands of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. By the way, at one time the Muslim vote in West Bengal was with the Marxist Communist Party. But now he has completely gone with Mamta. In the last two assembly elections of Delhi, this vote bank left the hands of the Congress and joined hands with the Aam Aadmi Party. As of now, the Aam Aadmi Party does not see any threat in Delhi, at least till the assembly elections. But it is certain that in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, this vote bank may return to the Congress instead of the Aam Aadmi Party, like in Karnataka. That’s why the concern of regional parties is natural. That’s why they are not looking eager for new opposition mobilization under the leadership of Congress. This danger can also happen with Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra, if Muslim voters make up their mind, then whatever support Pawar has been getting, he can slip away from him. If this happens, then the politics of regional satraps can be shattered. As for Nitish Kumar, he has nothing to lose. He has remained the Chief Minister of Bihar continuously since 2005 on the strength of his face without any major political base. Earlier his base remained with BJP and now Rashtriya Janata Dal is with him. By the way, Nitish has come of age, so he also feels that there is no harm in trying in the almost last election of his life.
In the changed environment, even the Congress could hardly stick to its old stand. Anyway, during the swearing-in in Karnataka, he asked the leaders of the opposition parties, it is clear from that what will be his next step? It is evident from only Rahul’s speech after swearing in that she is hardly thinking of giving leadership to anyone other than her own Rahul. Due to Congress’s own thinking, Nitish’s efforts and opposition’s apprehension, the anti-Modi mobilization can still see many acrobatics. For this we will have to wait.
The author is a senior journalist and columnist