The Rainbow Rally mobilized by West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee at Kolkatta's historic Brigade Parade Ground, with prominent opposition party leaders of the country, and the dissidents from the ruling parties, turned out to be a kick-off of the Opposition poll campaign.
With the Sangh parivar and right wing groups and leaders - and even mainstream media - asking what the alternative to the Modi-Amit Shah duo that continues to ride roughshod is, the Kolkatta 'United India' rally can claim to have given the answer for that with just one event.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted calling Mamata a big sister. And then came Mamata's declaration that what mattered was not naming a prime minister candidate but ousting the current prime minister and his party from power. These plus Trinamool Congress' optimism that regional political pressures will not pose any hurdles for larger political goals, all augur well for the rainbow coalition with hopes for the better. Each of the leaders who spoke at the rally spoke with clear vision about the poll agenda. Of course, the left parties who are engaged in a fight for survival against Mamata, their arch-enemy in West Bengal, kept away from the grand rally. And they are a party that has already taken a position that they will support an anti-BJP government from within or outside through a post-poll alliance. All this put together, the Kolkatta rally has to be read as a robust message of a determined opposition line-up.
The rally came close on the heels of the launching of the SP-BSP alliance by Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati in UP that can pull the sand under BJP's feet in that state. In addition to inducting that new coalition in UP together with the remaining small opposition parties, the event also had representation from the northeastern states of Mizoram and Arunchal. The new-gen stars from Gujarat - Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani - also showed up at Kolkatta. From the Congress side, with the accompaniment of Rahul's greeting tweet, senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge was sent to the conclave. Aam Admi Party, DMK, NCP, Janata Dal-S, RLD, National Conference and Jharkhand Mukti Morscha also joined in with all their heart.
The very fact that the rally has caused jitters for prime minister Narendra Modi is evidence of its impact. In his hurry while ridiculing the Kolkatta rally, Modi even forgot the actual number of his party's own MLAs in West Bengal. His ridicule was that when the state got just one BJP MLA in the assembly, Mamata convened all and was screaming to them to save her. Modi, who forgot that in Bengal his party had three MLAs and three MPs, promptly found himself being sufficiently scoffed by trollers. It became all too clear that the minor tie-up in UP between BSP and SP in UP, and the new, and larger, rainbow coalition of Mamata are making Modi and BJP nervous. A clear evidence of it is that the prime minister, who till then had been whole hog on the offensive, has now pushed back to being defensive.
The assiduous moves by the opposition for unity and mutual understanding tell the fact that BJP has no alternative but to sweat in full for the 2019 general election. The BJP is busy mocking at the rally saying that the leadership of Opposition is disunited and what happened at Kolkatta was a summit of contradictions. But the ruling party had hardly foreseen that those sitting in different poles would come together to share the dais so fast and sit in one row. What many sangh parivar leaders express now is their disillusionment from that miscalculation. The ruling front will have to encounter regional parties across the country. They are all now united in one agenda and a common minimum programme. And that is sure to jolt BJP. If the parties to the alliance are able to sustain the tempo of the surgical strike, the Opposition can see their hopes fructifying.