The political strategists within the BJP must be smiling with delight at the news of the postponement of the much-vaunted Opposition parties’ unity meet that was to be hosted by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on June 12. The officially stated reason for the moratorium aside (Mr Kumar said that certain parties, including the Indian National Congress, found the date to be inconvenient), the real reason was the issue of who would attend.
Mr Kumar was very particular, and reportedly told all the parties, and in particular emphasised it to the Congress Party, that he wanted only heads of the parties to be in attendance. That would have implied that either AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge or senior leader Rahul Gandhi was expected for the meeting.
The Congress sees no great reason to humour Mr Kumar by going to such great lengths now. Besides, everyone is wary of him, given his numerous and incessant flip-flops and shifts in political stance. The Grand Old Party knows its stock has risen since the victory in the Karnataka polls, following an earlier win directly against the ruling saffron party in Himachal. Two state Assembly wins against their main national rival and the success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra by Rahul Gandhi have given the Congress a tailwind.
In its new-found confidence, it sees no reason to go by Mr Kumar’s rules ahead of any unity meeting, whose success squarely depends on how open-minded all parties are for a larger cause. If Mr Kumar cannot make a small compromise even on the format of the unity meeting, neither is the Congress keen to go out of its way to please him.
It is for regional party leaders to understand that, with elections imminent, and a scenario in four of five states — Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Manipur — wherein the two national parties will slug it out, with the exception of Telangana where a regional party is in the fray, it is really for the Congress to lead the battles against the BJP.
And Mr Kumar must be more obliging if he wants unity.