Good auguries from Opposition unity movestext_fields
The Karnataka assembly election results of 2018 can be seen as a special chapter in Indian parliamentary history. The BJP, despite being the single largest party, could not come to power for want of having an absolute majority. BJP President Amit Shah's 'Operation Lotus' to dangle money and rope in smaller parties did not find fruition either. It was during those moments of political uncertainty that the second leading party, the Congress declared support to HD Kumaraswamy's Janata Dal. That is how 'Kumarannan' took office as the 18th Chief Minister of Kannada. There is nothing unusual in any of the moves like jockeying for power and post-election alliances. People of India have witnessed this enough number of times. But Kumaraswamy's case is different and historic because of the creative approach he took at that time. He converted his swearing-in ceremony into a forum for an anti-fascist collective. That event, attended by almost all secular-minded political leaders in the country, also became an unofficial forum for the announcement of a broad alliance against the Sangh regime. If that alliance had gone ahead, the result of the Lok Sabha elections held the following year would have been different. But what happened was something else: in the absence of such an alliance, the country gave Modi a second term. The secular alliance fell apart and Kumaraswamy lost his rule too.
Now, four years thence, some political moves by secular parties at the national level in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, are reminiscent of those events. The interesting thing is that the man behind the new political moves is Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who left the NDA and joined the secular line-up a few weeks ago. He reached Delhi last week and met most of the opposition leaders. He exchanged ideas with Rahul Gandhi, just before the latter left for Kanyakumari for the 'Bharat Jodo' journey; and he also met later Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav and others. Reports say that Nitish's discussion with NCP leader Sharad Pawar - who a year ago had set about to expand the strategic moves of the 'Rashtra Manch' as a common platform against the policies of the sangh parivar - lasted for hours. It is also noteworthy that the election strategist Prashant Kishor, who was at the helm of those moves, is also behind Nitish. It has also been made clear that Nitish and Lalu would hold talks with Congress President Sonia Gandhi very soon. Nitish has already held discussions with Telangana Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao, who is on the anti-Modi side. Rao, who is of the opinion that other parties should unite as an alternative to BJP and Congress, is going to expand the activities of his party to the national level in the coming days. As a part of it, he met other leaders including Kumaraswamy. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra, aimed at exposing the Sangh Parivar regime and their policies, has received fairly good response. In short, the sentiment against the fascist regime at the Centre is gathering support from many quarters, although at different levels, making promising moves.
At the same time, there are concerns about how fruitful these political moves will be. That concern emerges from the antecedent political positions which had been adopted by the parties mentioned above. Although in general all these parties advocate the same anti-Sangh Parivar stance, they fail miserably in presenting them on the ground. Not only that, they often become propagandists of Hindutva, sometimes putting even the Sangh Parivar to shame. It is this political weakness that actually provides fodder to the BJP. The co-ordination of secular parties at the national level is not that easy either in practice. In Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka and UP, when the secular parties are scattered among disparate alliances, the question of how this alliance will get forged and function in the parliamentary elections must also be addressed by the new exponents of unity. Therefore, the immediate task of any anti-fascist alliance is to come up with a common minimum program that can include all secular streams. Although that will not be easy, at this crucial juncture the country yearns for such a unity. May the current moves be the preliminary steps for such a coming together.