Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Nov 2018 09:52:42

TWO words -- “Democratic compulsion” -- used by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Mr. Chandrababu Naidu about having to call on Congress President Mr. Rahul Gandhi in an attempt to forge an Opposition alliance, indicate the political helplessness that will be at the core of the unity effort. On the face of it, the effort statedly is to “protect the country”. But internally, things are absolutely different, and in the realm of an impossible-to-put-up-with compulsion almost as a matter of survival. As he talked to the media, Mr. Naidu, however, did not mince words. “Everything else is secondary”, he asserted even as he voiced his disgust with words “democratic compulsion. Certain facts, they say, cannot be hidden.

When the very core of the efforts to forge an Opposition unity to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is constrained by a compulsion, then it is not difficult to anticipate what kind of joint front the Opposition parties are likely to forge in the next some time. When an activity is driven by compulsion, as Mr. Chandrababu Naidu said, then the mission component is passion. Obviously, the Opposition campaign for the next year’s Lok Sabha election will take place under this affliction.

There is another political twist, as well, to the situation in the Opposition camp. The fresh unity move is now being spearheaded by Mr. Chandrababu Naidu. It was one of his close associates who had opposed the very idea of having Mr. Rahul Gandhi as a possible prime ministerial candidate. For, at that moment, it was the Congress party that was in the forefront of forging Opposition unity. So, unwilling to accept Mr. Rahul Gandhi as the leader of the joint front, the TDP leader had expressed an open opposition to the idea. Then, a few days ago, the Congress played another card -- by asking former Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram to state that the party had never declared Mr. Gandhi as a prime ministerial candidate. Perhaps, that seems to have cleared the way for the fresh Chandrababu initiative “under democratic compulsion”. All these developments are self-explanatory, to say the least. Even a child in the street would know the tentativeness in the Opposition camp. Yet, Mr. Naidu is under clear compulsion to assert that all the efforts are being made to “save the nation”. All of a sudden, Mr. Naidu has realised that after all, the Congress is the country’s main Opposition party. There could never be any better way to explain his compulsion.

Again, on the surface, even these efforts and explanations may seem logically correct and workable. But they do not hide the deep fissures that circumscribe the Opposition’s limitations. For, even as he watched the development, Nationalist Congress Party chief Mr. Sharad Pawar did not talk directly of a united front of the Opposition parties in a direct manner. He only stressed the importance of a common minimum programme for the Opposition alliance. That, too, talks of certain tentativeness whose explanation will only be superficial, to say the least.

There is no doubt that Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is trying to expand the scope of the proposed joint front. Yet, none can predict how the two women -- Ms. Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Ms. Mamta Bannerjee of the Trinamul Congress (TMC) -- will behave, or if Madam Mayawati and Mr. Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP) will allow even a breathing space for the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh. These developments do not offer much to cheer about.

There is no need to form opinions too early in the day. Yet, there are reasons to suspect if the Opposition parties have that kind of maturity to go beyond personal ambitions of a few leaders and forge a principled joint front to combat the BJP’s electoral juggernaut that has won the maximum number of elections in the past four-and-a-half years. With that kind of practical record, the writing on the wall is all too clear. Yet, as the wise men say, it is always better to wait and watch as some other self-styled wise men are in the process of forging a joint front.