Is there anyone in the Opposition who can stand up to Mr Modi in the nation’s leadership stakes?
There is no gainsaying that since Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s 50-minute punchy attack on the present ruling dispensation, in particular at the heart of the reigning ethos symbolised by a combination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, during last month’s no-trust motion debate, it is hard to ask the fatuous question: Is there anyone in the Opposition who can stand up to Mr Modi in the nation’s leadership stakes?
The question that was assiduously cultivated by the BJP-RSS cohorts for four years was effectively answered on July 20. But ultimately the critical variable is the number of Lok Sabha seats parties win.
It is simply not enough for the Congress to go on criticising the ruling party on an array of counts, as Mr Gandhi and his party are doing quite effectively these days. They will have to win seats and displace the BJP governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh if they wish to emerge as BJP’s real challenger in the Lok Sabha election.
In the wake of Mr Gandhi’s calibrated aggression seen in the Lok Sabha, the most significant political development has been the dissipation of doubts on Opposition unity, which was sought to be sowed through the media in a calculated fashion. The Congress Party is now openly saying that the choice of the leader of the anti-BJP front, which was being made a point of discord by many, was a post-election variable, and to raise it now was to create confusion.
It is evident the party has come to take this line after intensive consultations with other parties. The most striking occurrence in this regard was the visit of West Bengal CM and Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee to meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The same day Ms Banerjee met leaders of several other “secular” parties.
In addition, the Congress and the NCP leadership have been in close contact with the BSP leadership on the question of seat-sharing in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan as well as Maharashtra.
These developments have taken place quite rapidly and more smoothly than anyone could have anticipated. It is to be seen what cards the BJP-RSS play to disrupt its opponents at this stage. They are facing their own difficulties in relation to allies and there is also scope for dissatisfaction within their own ranks, chiefly on account of non-delivery of promises.
We are thus now entering a new stage of tactical political manoeuvrings on the part of all parties in the system. There is a lot at stake. The BJP will also be called upon to make calculations that it never thought might be needed, given the earlier fragmented state of its opponents. The question has now arisen about its second line of defence if its strength should fall sharply, as is within the bounds of probability.