The BJP’s thumping victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand has lent a sense of urgency to the opposition’s efforts to forge unity ahead of the presidential election.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to explore the possibility of fielding a joint candidate, while RJD boss Lalu Prasad talked about cobbling together a Bihar-style ‘Mahagathbandhan’. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called for a larger unity among regional parties to take on the BJP.
Yechury called on Gandhi on Thursday, hours after she met Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar. “We are right now meeting all the opposition secular forces to find a common candidate,” Yechury said about the meeting.
“Yechury and Gandhi discussed the possibility of fielding a candidate acceptable to all secular opposition parties. Gandhi responded positively to a suggestion in this connection by the CPI(M) leader,” a source in the Left party said.
The CPI(M) is also in talks with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad. “The opposition leaders are likely to meet shortly to discuss the issue formally,” the source said.
Though JD(U) spokesman K C Tyagi had yesterday insisted that the issue of presidential election was not discussed during Kumar’s meeting with Gandhi, he said the party was of the view that a strong joint opposition candidate was in national interest.
“There should be a joint opposition candidate for the top constitutional post and Sonia Gandhi being the leader of the largest opposition party should take the lead,” he said. In Patna, Lalu made a strong pitch for a broader alliance of opposition parties.
“Wherever the parties of social justice or regional political entities have come together we have won. We want Mayawati, Congress, Mamata Banerjee, (SP president) Akhilesh ji to come together to defeat the communal and fascist forces,” he said.
He referred to the success of the grand alliance of RJD JD(U) and Congress in Bihar where it stalled the BJP’s juggernaut in the assembly election in 2015.
Notwithstanding their differences, Nitish Kumar and Lalu had joined hands ahead of the assembly election. Kumar heads the grand alliance government in Bihar despite his party having fewer seats than RJD.
Mamata Banerjee, meanwhile, called upon regional parties to unite to take on the BJP which, she alleged, has unleashed “vendetta politics” against those opposed to it and wanted to take the country on a “dangerous path.”
“What is going on in the country in the name of politics is not politics. The situation demands all regional parties to unite,” Banerjee told party workers at a meeting in Kolkata shortly after being re-elected as chairperson of Trinamool Congress for six years.
“I do not want anything. I want you all (regional parties) to progress, I am there in your support. I am giving this message to all parties. Be together, be united, my party will stand by all of you,” she said.
“BJP has resorted to vendetta politics. They are out to break the federal structure of the country. BJP is against our party because we talk about the people.
“They want to finish us by unleashing an agency (CBI) against our leaders but they themselves will be finished. TMC will strike back,” she said, asking partymen not to get scared.
Referring to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, she said, “Whatever the conspiracy is, you have to go to the grassroots level and meet our workers. Take the challenge for two years. We will fight taking along everyone.”
The sudden flurry of activity in opposition parties follows the BJP’s winning streak in states since the formation of the Narendra Modi government. It currently has governments in 13 states and is a junior partner in the ruling alliance in Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh. However, the party had lost badly in Bihar and Delhi.
Presidential election is scheduled in July and opposition unity for contesting it may well be a precursor to an anti-NDA front ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.