Opposition promise of unity not visible in LS polls

New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s decision to also contest from Left-ruled Kerala apart from Amethi has created further fissures in the opposition ranks ahead of the first phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 11.

While there were suggestions earlier of opposition parties fielding common candidates against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, the idea has mostly failed to materialize.

In some states, opposition parties are fighting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and also among themselves.

Gandhi’s decision to pick the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala has drawn strong reactions from the Left. CPI-M leader Prakash Karat said the Congress had “lost the plot” by deciding to contest against the Left instead of the BJP.

Kerala is now the only state where the Congress’ main opponent is the Left. Gandhi’s decision to also be a candidate in Kerala has invited scorn from the BJP, which is determined to defeat the Congress President in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress is also battling the stridently anti-BJP Trinamool Congress and also the increasingly also-ran Left in West Bengal. The Congress and the Left failed to shake hands in the state that was once a Left bastion.

And in Delhi, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could not shed their antagonism and jointly take on the BJP for the city’s seven Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress has, however, sewed up alliances in Bihar with the RJD and smaller parties, with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra, with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and others in Jharkhand, with the DMK in Tamil Nadu, with the Janata Dal-Secular in Karnataka and with the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir.

In Jammu and Kashmir, however, the Congress and the National Conference will be engaged in “friendly contests” on two seats in the Kashmir Valley.

But while the NCP is a friend in Maharashtra, it will contest all the seats in Gujarat, a decision likely to queer the pitch for the Congress.

The worst is the Uttar Pradesh story. The Congress is contesting all 80 Lok Sabha seats largely on its own and in the process taking on both the BJP as well as the SP-BSP-RLD combine — something that has angered BSP chief Mayawati more than anyone else.

The Congress made the move after the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party divided Uttar Pradesh mostly among themselves, leaving only two seats — Rae Bareli and Amethi — for the Congress.

The Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) had joined hands for the Assembly polls in Telangana but are now fighting the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections separately in Andhra Pradesh.

Political analyst Subrata Mukherjee, who taught at Delhi University, said that “much better performance was expected” from the opposition on forging alliances.

“The election is much more important for the Congress than it is for the BJP as it has to present itself as a viable alternative. The BJP has shown better skills at political accommodation. They (opposition) should have sorted out the alliances six months earlier,” Mukherjee told IANS.

Like most political pundits, he felt that while the opposition parties may be interested in protecting their own turfs, there should have been “better give and take” to present a united picture vis-a-vis the BJP.