A few days ago, the Congress called for opposition meet on Citizenship (Amendment) Act, i.e., CAA, but majority of the powerful opposition parties stayed away from the meeting. The prominent opposition parties, which have expressed displeasure with CAA, like TMC, DMK, SP skipped the meet. This shows Congress’ inability to unite the opposition parties, even on the issues which they are opposed to.
This is also an example of the theory that the regional parties dislike Congress as much as they dislike BJP; or even more. These parties are not willing to accept the Congress leadership. The major reason behind Congress not being able to unite the opposition parties is that its vote bank overlaps with these parties.
Let’s analyze the how the vote bank of regional parties overlaps with that of Congress state by state.
From West Bengal, the ruling party, Mamata Banerjee-led AITC, did not join the anti-CAA meet despite its vehement opposition to the act. The reason behind this is Muslim vote bank. The Muslim community accounts for almost 30 percent of voter base in West Bengal and they have traditionally voted for Congress before Mamata Banerjee patronized them.
Banerjee herself was with the Congress party till late 1990s when she broke away to form her own outfit. She used to be the most popular face of the party in the state and her breaking away from Congress caused its decline, because, the castes and communities which have traditionally voted for Congress, moved to Mamata’s outfit. West Bengal is scheduled to go for polls in 2021, and Mamata Banerjee does not want share a platform on which Congress has the upper hand.
From Uttar Pradesh, both SP and BSP did not join the meet. In the last few months, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been hyperactive in the state, especially among the Muslim community. In UP, all the major opposition parties- SP, BSP, Congress- eye for Muslim votes. The community has traditionally voted for Congress but shifted to SP in 1990s and 2000s. On many seats, the Muslims vote strategically to whichever party has highest possibility to defeat BJP. So they have voted for SP, BSP, and Congress.
As CAA is being perceived as anti-Muslim, the whole politics around the act is for Muslim vote bank. Whichever party comes out as the most ardent anti-CAA, the Muslim community vote will go to them. If SP and BSP join the Congress led meet, the Grand Old Party will emerge as natural leader against CAA protests, and the Muslim votes might go the party. Given the pro-activeness of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, giving political space to Congress is the last thing the SP and BSP can afford.
In UP, the upper caste has strongly consolidated with the BJP; the non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav SC has also voted for the saffron party in large numbers. Therefore, the Congress party will eye for the vote base of the SP and BSP, which is Muslim, Yadav, Jatavs, and other smaller communities that do not vote or BJP.
Before the rise of BJP, the regional parties like AITC, SP, BSP, and DMK competed primarily with Congress. Many of opposition parties of the country are offshoot of Congress or were started by breakaway leaders; therefore, to stand on a single platform under the leadership of Congress is the last option in their basket.
Even now, majority of these parties compete for the same vote bank. So, they will not unite under one banner against BJP under the leadership of Congress party.
Shiv Sena and the DMK- the allies of Congress in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu respectively- also did not participate in the anti-CAA meet. Shiv Sena has made it very clear that, the alliance is limited to Maharashtra and been seen in anti-CAA meet will snatch whatever right it has to claim Hindutva.
DMK again did not attend as the party has issue with Congress over seat sharing in local body elections. The voter base of both parties is same in the state and giving any extra space to Congress will erode DMK’s own vote bank.
The Modi-Shah duo has made it very clear that the party will not indulge in vote bank politics. Now the Muslim vote bank has become the reason behind opposition’s inability to unite under the leadership of Congress party.