Artificial bonhomie, avaricious unity

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 May 2018 09:06:17



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Vijay Phanshikar,

The manner in which Congress leader Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Ms. Mayawati were hugging each other repeatedly, the manner in which Congress President Mr. Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool Congress leader Ms. Mamata Banerjee were almost falling over each other, the manner in which Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana Chief Minister Mr. Chandrashekar Rao were shaking hands time and again made obvious the artificial bonhomie Opposition leaders were trying to project and an avaricious unity they were trying to forge at the time of swearing-in ceremony of new Karnataka Chief Minister Mr. H.D. Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru. All that show of friendship looked almost ludicrous against the background of the political reality that all these men and women were not seeing each other eye to eye until just a few months ago.

 

That demonstrationism in Bengaluru, thus, made it clear that during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in the summer of 2019, such shows may be available for public consumption. Yet, those who understand the intricacies of politics also realised that such a fake unity would not last long when there are at least four persons among these leaders nursing the ambition of becoming Prime Minister. Though all the Opposition leaders are vowing to work together to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in the next Lok Sabha elections, all of them also know internally that they are entering their lives’ toughest-ever political assignment. They realise that they have only a faint chance of doing well only if they try it collectively. Hence this unity whose credibility is under serious question even before the show gets started. In Bengaluru, all these issues kept coming up in the minds of political observers even as the Opposition leaders kept hugging one another. The artificiality of the whole show was so obvious that it left many unanswered questions in people’s minds -- about the possible common minimum programme the Opposition parties will have to project, about the honourable seat-sharing agreements on the national level, about the details of management of a countrywide electoral organisation that they would need...!

 

A couple of months ago, when the Congress party had initiated an Opposition leaders’ meet at the residence of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, several issues had cropped up in the discussion. On most points, there was no unity of opinion among a majority of those present. So, all those contentious issues were left there to be tackled subsequently. Those issues pertained mostly to who would drive the show centrally. In simpler words, it was a leadership issue about which there could not be a consensus among the leaders of Opposition parties, small or big.

 

At Bengaluru, however, an attempt was visible to paper over many such contentious issues and project a picture of total unity among the Opposition parties and their leaders. The swearing-in ceremony of Mr. Kumaraswamy offered them an opportunity to come together and present a show without fissures. Obviously, the initiative was that of Congress party whose Karnataka State unit was becoming a partner in power with Janata Dal (S). Most Opposition leaders did respond and attended the ceremony on whose sidelines they discussed various issues, albeit superficially. Detailed discussion may follow later on, but for the time being, an attempt was made rather successfully to showcase unity among Opposition parties.


What all that tantamounts to, only time will decide. But given the multiple equations and permutations and combinations that have characterised Opposition’s collective conduct in the last four years since the advent of Mr. Narendra Modi as the sole leader of a truly national (and nationalist) character, the Bengaluru meet may not act as a forerunner of a genuine unity among Opposition parties. For, until this very moment, the nation has had no reason to forget the screwed up equations among most of the Opposition leaders.

 

But yes, on the positive side, they have at least one example of how two sworn enemies could come together for a common purpose. All of them have seen how Mr. Akhilesh Yadav and Ms. Mayawati came together against the BJP’s candidates in Uttar Pradesh by-elections to defeat the nominees of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in his own constituency.
That example may act as a trigger at least in some cases. However, general experience shows that such examples are more likely to prove as exceptions rather than rules.

 

For, given the characters of the current leaders of various Opposition parties, it seems almost impossible that they would be ready to enter into massive compromises to accommodate the genuine needs of one another when they sit together for seat-sharing exercise or deciding upon a common minimum programme on whose basis they would formulate their philosophical planks to fight elections. So fragile are the mutual equations between various Opposition leaders and so delicate are some relationships that a strong and united Opposition appears almost impossible -- at least at this stage.

 

Subsequently, expediency may push them harder to stand together. Yet, it could be anybody’s guess how much credibility these people may be able to lend to their exercise. For, in the past four years, they have not been able to offer a credible opposition to the BJP’s well-oiled organisational machinery that has won every election with more or less ease. Even in Karnataka, the Opposition has to forge a strange bed-fellowship to make possible the BJP’s defeat in the numbers game. Spiritually, as every voter knows across the land, the BJP stands a winner, and not the two disparate elements of Congress and Janata Dal (S) whose leaders -- Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. H.D. Deve Gowda -- had never seen eye to eye in their lives. That explains everything.