There is a serious amiss in the so-called Opposition unity bogey.
There were reports that the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP had sent invitations to the Chief Ministers of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, Telangana K Chandrasekhar Rao, Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan and a few others, but none turned out.
According to sources, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and his Tamil Nadu counterpart M K Stalin also stayed away from the supposed dinner meet on March 18.
The Team Kejriwal’s planning for such a conclave has backfired and failed because of the ongoing Budget session of Parliament, and various engagements in respective States have been cited as key reasons for their absence. According to sources, DMK, JMM, and CPI-M confirmed that they received the letter from AAP.
This episode is seen as a big disappointment for PM-ambitious Kejriwal, and worse, all of it came at a time when two of its senior leaders, Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain, are cooling heels behind bars in separate cases of corruption.
Hemant Soren of JMM perhaps avoided travel to Delhi as the State assembly session was on in Ranchi, and he has reportedly suggested that any such meeting could be convened sometime in April or May.
Interestingly, the AAP got a virtual snub from Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is always ‘image conscious’ and thus wanted to maintain a tactical and strategic ‘distance’ from AAP leader Kejriwal as well as Telangana CM Chandrasekhar Rao. Both these parties and their leaders are under the scanners of legal systems and investigative agencies. While AAP leaders Sisodia and Jain are arrested, Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter K Kavitha is being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam.
Even on March 21, K Kavitha was questioned by the ED officials for nearly 10 hours, sources said.
In January, such an effort by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi flopped at Srinagar when he ended his roadshow called Bharat Jodo Yatra. The culmination of the Yatra was lukewarm, as the efforts
by Rahul to emerge as a legitimate claimant as the face of the Opposition in 2024 did not have many takers.
The RJD has been a longtime friend of Congress ever since Lalu Prasad’s corruption hit and lawlessness governance days. Yet the Bihar-based party gave Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra a total miss. JD(U) of Nitish Kumar also stayed away. In fact, out of 23 parties invited to turn up to mark the end of Rahul’s Yatra, as many as 15 of them kept a safe distance.
It was not without good reason that an English paper had commented: “In the end, there was no clinching of hands showcasing Opposition unity”.
As of now, the basic concept pertaining to ‘Opposition unity’ as against the immense popularity of Narendra Modi has been unable to make headway because of certain internal bickering and inherent contradictions among these parties.
Firstly, the regional parties such as the Trinamool Congress, the AAP and the BRS of Chandrasekhar Rao are directly in confrontation with the Congress. Even Samajwadi Party, having burned fingers in the 2017 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, is reluctant to have another round of tie-up. But parties such as DMK do not have any major issues with Congress as because the grand old party is a pretty weak player in the State of Tamil Nadu.
On the other hand, the JD-U of Nitish Kumar is a seasonal bird but does not mind aligning with Congress at a very local level because in Bihar, too the Congress is almost a spent force.
In the recent past, the Congress leaders have called the Trinamool Congress a “Trojan horse”, and for her part, Mamata Banerjee had skipped an Opposition meeting chaired by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in 2022.