Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 | Last Update : 08:08 AM IST
Due to these complexities of politics, it’s hard to see a serious effort at Opposition unity.
On the Opposition side of the political spectrum, it has become evident since last week that efforts have begun to bring about as great a prospect of coordination against the ruling BJP as possible. Expanding the area or scale of coordination seems the upper limit of aspiration as it’s well understood that total Opposition unity may not be possible. The latter involves the idea of putting up a single candidate from among the Opposition parties against the BJP in each constituency in the next Lok Sabha election.
This “one against one” formula has worked successfully just once — when many anti-Congress parties merged to form the Janata Party in the wake of the Emergency. In the ordinary course, the political topography varies from state to state and non-BJP parties frequently come into conflict.
A perfect example is West Bengal. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress is leagues ahead of the CPI(M) and the Congress. For the TMC, the BJP is the immediate first among adversaries, though it hardly mounts a credible challenge. The CPI(M), on the other hand, still has a reasonable share of the vote statewide, and the TMC may be wary of it in the longer term. In neighbouring Odisha, the ruling Biju Janata Dal is likely to view the Congress with nearly as much suspicion as the BJP, whose capabilities have apparently grown.
Due to these complexities of politics, it’s hard to see a serious effort at Opposition unity. The meeting called at the invitation of UPA chief Sonia Gandhi recently showed that there may even be differences within the Opposition ranks on the question of leadership of a front in the future. Ms Banerjee stayed away, though someone from her party did attend the meeting.
The last fact perhaps shows that Opposition parties would like to be practical and would confer and combine with one another to the extent possible as there is a large sphere of grievance against the ruling BJP.
This became amply clear in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday when there was a boycott of the afternoon proceedings on the ground that Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu was not allowing the Opposition parties to raise issues relating to their states, while the Upper House is meant to be the Council of States. They accused the Chairman of going for a lengthy adjournment when an Opposition figure rose to speak.
It’s clear their focus was not on a point of procedure (and the issue was resolved the very next day). The point to note is the interest in having as many common actions as possible among non-BJP parties. The BJP, for its part, is unlikely to have been pleased to see its Telugu Desam ally protesting in Parliament at the same time that the Opposition was pooling its efforts.