Oppn may go for Common Minimum Programme instead of a grand alliance
The Congress and some opposition parties are keen on a Common Minimum Programme (CMP), even in the absence of a formal pre-poll alliance, several leaders familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
The thinking behind this, they add, is that in the eventuality of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections resulting in a hung House, the parties can stake claim to forming the government by presenting the CMP as a proxy for a pre-poll alliance. Two commissions that looked at who gets to form the government after the elections have stressed that a pre-poll alliance gets priority.
While some parties such as the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are ready for such an announcement, the Left Front and other parties are apprehensive about signing a united agenda of governance and then fighting against each other in the summer’s Lok Sabha polls.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Monday that he has already expressed his reservations to Congress president Rahul Gandhi. “I told him that signing a CMP now and then fighting against each other in the poll is not a good idea,” Yechury said on Monday.
But two of the leaders cited in the first instance said a draft of the CMP could be shared with opposition parties as early as Wednesday when they attend a meeting in New Delhi in the Parliament complex.
Also read | SP-BSP alliance: The battle for the heartland
The Congress and the NCP have already announced an alliance in Maharashtra and the Congress and the DMK in Tamil Nadu. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have formed an alliance for Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Congress may tie up with the Left Front in West Bengal.
However, the SP and the BSP have left the Congress out of their alliance; the Trinamool Congress will fight the Left Front and also the Congress in West Bengal; and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Congress have decided to go it alone in Andhra Pradesh. The fact that all these parties have stated their opposition to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance makes the CMP a viable alternative.
If the CMP is finally inked, it will possibly be the first such pre-poll declaration as common programmes have traditionally been announced just ahead of the formation of the government after parties have declared their support in favour of a Prime Minister. In the United Front government of 1996, the Vajpayee government of 1999, and the UPA of 2004, CMPs were formulated after election results were out.
The opposition leaders said that senior Congress leaders have already held a few rounds of meetings to prepare a draft CMP. “They have involved not just political leaders but sector experts and even select Opposition leaders to discuss the possible contents for the basic promises that will the guiding force of the non-NDA government, if it comes to power,” said a senior non-Congress opposition leader.
One of the proposals under consideration is a comprehensive minimum income guarantee scheme for all farmers. “The Modi government’s income guarantee scheme has too little financial help. It is also restricted for small and marginal farmers. We will give a much better package,” said a senior opposition strategist involved in the discussions.
Other salient features include targeted job generation across different sectors and robust management of the economy. The Trinamool Congress, the second-largest Opposition party in the current Lok Sabha wants the CMP to speak specifically about protecting independence of Constitutional bodies.
Congress leaders were quick to point out that the Sarkaria Commission report (circa 1987) said that if a leader has to be selected from among groups of parties, then in the order of preference “an alliance of parties that was formed prior to the Elections” comes first.
The Punchhi commission guidelines (circa 2010) also say that “the party or combination of parties which commands the widest support in the Legislative Assembly should be called upon to form the Government. If there is a pre-poll alliance or coalition, it should be treated as one political party and if such coalition obtains a majority, the leader of such coalition shall be called” to form the Government.
“Multiple parties coming together without a CMP can be a slippery affair. Without any formal, concrete set of goals and promises, some of its constituents can always switch over to the other side. It also helps in running a government smoothly,” said analyst Sadanand Memon.