The inevitable conflict in the opposition
The clash of ambition among various leaders will begin soonUpdated: May 13, 2019 22:01 IST
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has been proactive over the past week. While ruling himself out of the prime ministerial race — which perhaps also stems from the recognition that the TDP may not do as well as he would have liked in the elections — Mr Naidu has been keen on convening a meeting of the opposition parties between the end of polling and the announcement of results. Reports now indicate that two key pillars of any such opposition alliance — Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati — have told Mr Naidu that this would be premature and any such meeting should be held after the results come in. To be sure, the two leaders have not rejected opposition unity in principle, but they seem to believe that deliberations will be productive only once the arithmetic of the Lok Sabha becomes clear.
Notwithstanding the specifics of when such a meeting is held, in the eventuality that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its existing allies fall short of a majority, the attention will shift to key regional outfits. They may have projected a united front against the BJP in rallies and meetings before the elections, but in key states, broad opposition unity remained an illusion once competitive politics took over. This was most obvious in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Delhi and Haryana. There are also clear contradictions. Mr Naidu may be proactive but the numbers may well dictate that his arch rivals, K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) and Jagan Mohan Reddy be far more instrumental as swing forces if the opposition needs numbers to keep Mr Modi out. Who sits in the meetings and call the shots will be a function of the results.
And then there will be the inevitable clash of ambitions. Till now, the non-BJP parties have been able to skirt around the question of who would be Prime Minister. But as soon as the numbers come in, four sets of actors will throw their hats in the ring. If the Congress is able to get above 140, it could well claim leadership. Ms Mayawati has already let her ambitions be known and if the alliance gets over 50 seats in UP and stops the BJP’s march, she will be a contender. Ms Banerjee will think of herself as a PM candidate if she is able to prevent the BJP from rising in Bengal. Mr KCR is known to harbour ambitions too. And then there are dark horses, from Sharad Pawar to HD Deve Gowda, who may think of this as their last chance at national leadership. If the opposition had actually resolved the PM question before the elections, its credibility as an alternative would have been higher. But the dilemma was that if they had announced someone, all other elements of the opposition may well have sabotaged it or the person may not have had all-India acceptability to take on Mr Modi. With the opposition’s firm belief that Mr Modi will fall short of a majority — this could well be untrue for there is as strong a possibility of the NDA making it to government again — the competitive game in their ranks is set to begin.
First Published: May 13, 2019 22:01 IST