The Opposition meeting convened on June 23 at Patna by the Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was attended by as many as 15 of the 16 parties to which the invites were sent. That meeting more or less proved a ‘flop show’ as it could not take up the agenda of forming a committee headed by ‘Maratha strongman’ and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, to prepare the Common Minimum Programme draft. Added to its embarrassment was the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) founder and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal skipping the joint press conference. However, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav managed to light up those present among the Opposition as well as the media, with his Rahu Gandhi’s marriage jibe. Apart from the Congress agreeing to host a second meeting in Shimla, capital of Himachal Pradesh, where the party is in power, nothing worth was decided. Whatever may be the reason to shift the venue to Bengaluru from Shimla, it has proved a blessing as Himachal is experiencing one of the worst-ever floods in recent history.
The Congress as host, cleverly, not announced any agenda for the meet, but extended the invite to another half a dozen parties to take the tally to 24. Well, who are those seven parties in the Bengaluru conclave list? Interestingly, the most insignificant allies of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Congress in Tamil Nadu, as well as Left Front allies of Kerala. They are MDMK, KDMK, VCK (all tail-parties of DMK in Tamil Nadu), RSP, Forward Block, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Kerala Congress (Joseph), and Kerala Congress (Mani). Look at these parties from any angle; they are in no way can help the Opposition increase its Lok Sabha tally, except IUML in Kerala. Thus far, it is only laughable and nothing more. The unity efforts at Patna already created some commotion as Kejriwal chose to walk out of the press conference, complaining lack of a firm assurance from the Congress regarding its support to oppose the Delhi services Ordinance in the upcoming Parliament session. That apart, Sharad Pawar getting weakened with the coup engineered by his nephew Ajit Pawar bound to have its bearing on the Opposition unity efforts. Interestingly, the Congress, which finished fourth in the last Maharashtra assembly elections, now emerges as the principal Opposition party, as the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar’s NCP were reduced to a trickle.
Against that backdrop, how many of the invitees are going to attend the next week’s Bengaluru meet is unknown. The Karnataka state Congress party president and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shiva Kumar claimed that an invite was also extended to the AAP. What does it mean? As if this was not enough, the mayhem in the panchayat polls in West Bengal, where more than 45 people, including the Congress and Left Front workers, were killed also raise doubts over the Trinamool Congress’ attendance. So far there is no clarification on this. This is in the wake of the West Bengal state Congress party chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, blaming none other than Mamata Banerjee’s government for the worst-ever political violence that broke out from the date of filing the nomination papers to the polling day. Even the local Communist party leaders blamed the TMC, along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which managed to emerge as a distant second to the ruling party, which swept polls yet again. Interestingly, the Congress which has opened the ‘Mohabath ki Dukan’ from Rahul Gandhi’s padayatra, blaming the BJP with the ‘democracy in danger’ narrative, however, refused to condemn the large-scale killings of political opponents by the TMC goons in West Bengal. Not only the Congress, but even the ‘award vapsee’ gang too maintained its stoic silence.
The Opposition’s confidence that it may not be questioned its silence on the West Bengal violence as the BJP has failed miserably to ensure the law and order in Manipur, where the party is in power. The raging ethnic violence there for more than two months claimed hundreds of lives. Thus far, the blame game amongst the ruling and Opposition parties likely to continue till the next year’s Lok Sabha elections. Meanwhile, the BJP in a bid to checkmate the Opposition, has already begun its reunion efforts, by trying to convince erstwhile National Democratic Alliance allies like the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, the Janata Dal-S of S Kumaraswamy in Karnataka, or the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh (AP), besides reaching a tacit understanding with the major regional parties like the YSR Congress Party in AP and Bharat Rashtra Sangh in Telangana. Who will succeed or fail can be known once the Parliament session begins in which several key bills may come up for clearance, including the much-talked- about Uniform Civil Code.