Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 May 2018 11:48:26

OPPOSITION unity, now under discussion in a more pronounced manner since leaders of various parties met at Bengaluru recently, is certainly going to be a very difficult task. For, even before a joint front of all Opposition parties has been formed officially, its likely constituents are already voicing their concerns and differences openly. While some, like West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Mamta Banerjee, are talking about the high degree of difficulty in seat-sharing business, some others are beginning to oppose the possibility of Congress President Mr. Rahul Gandhi as a prime ministerial face. The root-cause of these troubles even before the joint front is born is the shocking differences in perceptions of various parties and their leaders. There also are some who wonder if the joint front would be formed ever before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. These differing perceptions are likely to act as a millstone around the proposed front’s neck.

The biggest problem area is the decision about who is going to be the prime ministerial face in the next Lok Sabha elections. For, there are at least four persons among the Opposition leaders nursing the ambition to become Prime Minister. Mr. Rahul Gandhi is one obvious name, which the Congress party will never compromise with. The other person who nurses a similar ambition is Ms. Mamta Banerjee, the feisty Chief Minister of West Bengal. The third name that may be doing the rounds among the possible front constituents is that of Mr. Chandrababu Naidu, who has just opted out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on a flimsy and illogical issue. And the fourth -- and the most unlikely -- name is that of Delhi Chief Minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. There could be a couple of other names as well, but those have not come in discussion in a pronounced manner.

There is very little likelihood of a consensus on the prime ministerial candidate in such a scenario. Being the largest Opposition party in Parliament, Congress will naturally insist upon the name of its President Mr. Rahul Gandhi. But right from now, an Andhra Pradesh Minister -- Mr. Kalava Srinivasulu -- has stated unequivocally that his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) would not accept Mr. Rahul Gandhi as a PM candidate. Obviously, troubles have begun, thus, even before the joint front is formed. Whether the parties to the joint front would ever have the good enough maturity to overcome all such issues or not, is a question to which there may never be an answer acceptable to all constituents.

We had all along expressed serious doubts about the smooth sailing in seat-sharing negotiations. Our doubts got confirmed by the frank admission of Ms. Mamta Banerjee that those talks would be an area quite difficult to negotiate smoothly. In the stronghold of each constituent, his claim would carry the biggest weight, naturally. And that is going to be a very annoying point for others. Of course, finally, a joint front would be formed somehow, but with such issues not sorted out properly.
Against this background, the National Democratic Alliance under the leadership of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi as the head of the biggest constituent -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- will demonstrate a massive show of unity that the voters would acknowledge immediately. The elections in various States in the past four years have demonstrated enough how the strength of the BJP is increasing every passing day. In Karnataka, too, where the BJP missed majority only by a whisker, this political reality came to fore with vengeance. Obviously, all the tall claims the Opposition parties and their leaders are making about the declining popularity of the Prime Minister and failure of his policies, are being laughed at by the common voters. The picture in the next 12 months before Lok Sabha elections, thus, is going to be very clear -- with a popular tilt in Mr. Modi’s favour.