By-poll results in UP seem to have rejuvenated the opposition. Although the BJP came back in the Rajya Sabha elections subsequently, the loss in the UP by-polls seems to have emboldened anti-BJP forces. And now, a lot of buzz has been created as the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is on a visit to New Delhi for four days, raising speculations of an anti-BJP front.
Officially, Mamata Banerjee is visiting Delhi to attend a dinner organized by NCP chief Sharad Pawar for the opposition, and to meet her party MPs. The formation of an anti-Modi political front is the need of the hour for the survival of many parties. There is absolutely no doubt that this visit to Delhi is significant in that respect. However, the impasse will be owing to two important factors. Firstly, how will the cobbling of an alliance of ideologically diverse parties happen? And secondly, who will lead this coalition?
The first question is about how these parties will come together when some don’t get along at all with each other. A majority of the parties are facing political extinction owing to the BJP, and this threat is the only binding factor for all of them. The biggest challenge in this process would be an alignment of ideological foes such as the Left and TMC. We have seen such associations of convenience happening in the past like, like that of the BSP and SP, but if we are to go by Mayawati’s latest statements, even this one is on the verge of implosion after the Rajya Sabha elections. The difficulty remains in keeping mutual convenience above egos. Mamata Banerjee will have to overcome this hurdle if she wants to be a party to this formation, and will have to be ready to share the dais with the likes of Sitaram Yechury.
The other question is who will lead the front. Undoubtedly, Mamata Banerjee sees herself as a prime ministerial candidate in the making. And this issue will be the bone of contention among all those pitted against the BJP and seeking to reconcile among each other.
Recently, TRS chief Chandrashekar Rao had met Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata, and the discussions between the regional satraps was in the spotlight. It is widely known that Rao is trying to form an anti-BJP anti-Congress front. In the advent of this, Mamata Banerjee can be a choice to lead and become the prime ministerial nominee of such an alliance.
However, if the Congress comes into the picture, regional parties will refrain from playing second fiddle to the Gandhis. Owing to his lackluster leadership, his inability to get votes and his track record, it will be difficult for all players to accept Rahul Gandhi as the face of the coalition.
A front which includes the Congress, will throw leadership woes out in the open. Numerically, the Congress is not in the ideal position to lead the alliance and post 2019 too, may not be in a situation to do so. This may cause differences between the TMC and the Congress, since the former expects Mamata to lead. Mamata Banerjee has taken the responsibility to bring parties together against the BJP. Not only did she hold talks with Rao, but she also had a word with TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, Delhi chief minister Kejriwal, and is even in touch with the Shiv Sena. Unless this issue with the Congress is resolved, the chances of a successful coming together of all anti-BJP outfits will not be easy. Her reluctance to meet the Gandhi scion clearly exhibits that her aspiring for the top job is outweighing the need for the opposition to come together.
It’s important to note that in case Mamata Banerjee is made to lead the alliance, the Left may have reservations and would want to settle with the Gandhi scion. Along with such sticking points, other leaders in the coalition such as Mulayam Singh and Mayawati too may nurse prime ministerial ambitions. Even Pawar and Rao may not be far behind in secretly nursing prime ministerial ambitions. In the absence of a consensus, the proposed alliance may falter before it gathers steam.
Mamata Banerjee hinted that she may not meet an ailing Sonia Gandhi, giving the excuse that she doesn’t want to disturb her. These may be subtle indications of uncertainty and the lack of cohesiveness in the deliberations. Experiments of the past in the form of the Gowda and Gujral governments during the 1990s, have been a bitter experience for the electorate. The nation may not risk such a fractured mandate again. The chances of the Modi government returning to power seem brighter than those of the other parties, who have left no stones unturned in their opportunism to stop Modi. The visit by Mamata Banerjee to Delhi is exactly what the BJP has described it as- a wild goose chase.