A mishap here could send Opposition parties into a tailspin and end their plans to knit a “people’s coalition” after next year’s elections.
The birth pangs of the fortnight-old Karnataka coalition are out in the open, with every possibility that this rare union of a national party and not one but two regional entities, which presaged the possibility of uniting leaders of 20 Opposition parties for the 2019 Lok Sabha battle, is veering off course.
Dissidence within the Congress and differences over power-sharing with the JD(S) papered over for now, are the first signs that the alliance could come apart, than serve as a final template for an anti-BJP front for 2019.
The silver lining seems visible only to this coalition’s architect, former PM H.D. Deve Gowda, who not only pulled in the BSP, and hopes to bind a greater alliance together in 2019. So far, he has seen the Grand Old Party kowtow to his every demand. For BJP leaders, who have seen ties fray with TDP’s N. Chandrababu Naidu and JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar, the nascent gatbandhan has set off alarm bells. The immediate fallout is the party chief working overtime to keep allies like the Shiv Sena on board.
But the grand alliance of anti-BJP parties hinges on two factors as the Karnataka experiment takes baby steps: one, the performance of the new state government, its longevity and whether it matches the expectations of people as a national party plays second fiddle to a regional entity. A mishap here could send Opposition parties into a tailspin and end their plans to knit a “people’s coalition” after next year’s elections.
Second, the ability of sworn enemies in the Opposition striking pre-poll partnerships in different states on sharing seats and power, without upsetting their cadre or second-rung leaders who are crucial for victory. Both concerns are evidently on the top of the agenda as the Opposition plans to turn the anti-incumbency against the BJP-led NDA government in their favour.
The signs of how much of an uphill task it can be are already evident, with both Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana’s K. Chandrasekhar Rao willing to be part of a grand coalition, but unclear on whether it will include the Congress, with which both parties have long been at loggerheads. Similarly, in West Bengal, the Trinamul Congress-led Mamata Banerjee government has had no truck with the Congress electorally. In Kerala, the CPI(M) is at war with the Congress.
It must also be said, however, that in West Bengal as much as in Kerala, both the TMC and the Marxists are aware of the threat that a rising saffron presence poses. That may become the glue that draws and binds the anti-Narendra Modi Opposition together. With the BJP’s strength down to 272 in the Lok Sabha from a string of byelection defeats, the Opposition leaders may have to put the bitter past behind, to reclaim the seat of power in New Delhi.