New Delhi, June 26: In a few months from now, the Lok Sabha elections, scheduled in April/May in 2019, will be hosted in the country. Ahead of the all-important election, the question that everyone is asking: How the Opposition is going to fight against the mighty Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)?
In May, the unity among the opposition parties was on full display during the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru. The top leaders of all the regional parties, the Congress and the Left attended Kumaraswamy's oath-taking event.
Before that, the victory of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party combine candidates in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-polls gave immense hope to the Opposition that the BJP could be defeated if all of them stay united. Thereafter, the Opposition again got a major morale boost by defeating the BJP in several by-polls held in the later part of May.
With all these three major developments, political pundits started believing that a pan-India grand alliance or mahagatbandhan is ready to take on the BJP in the 2019 polls. But the road leading to the formation of the mahagatbandhan is not an easy one as each political party has its own interests and regional compulsions.
In fact, several parties which have been planning to stitch the national-level alliance against the BJP are each other's sworn enemies in their respective states. Moreover, the position of the Congress has been on a sticky wicket in the whole scheme of the formation of a grand alliance.
While it is regional leaders like West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her counterpart in Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu who have been in the forefront to give some kind of shape to an alliance of the opposition parties, the Congress' attitude to have an upper hand in the mahagatbandhan is proving to be a deterrent for the grand old party.
There are also talks that the regional parties will form an anti-BJP and anti-Congress alliance for the 2019 polls. But Congress president Rahul Gandhi seems to be keen in being a part of the grand alliance as he hosted an iftar party recently where leaders of all the opposition parties were invited.
The things took a turn for the worse for the Congress when it stood alone among the opposition ranks by criticising the Aam Aadmi Party's recent protest against Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and the BJP government at the Centre.
While four chief ministers of various states came out in support of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal-led protest, the Congress like the BJP called the dharna at the LG's office as a "drama".
The conflicts and regional compulsions among the various opposition parties are some of the main differences that the "anti-BJP forces" have to iron out before coming together in the 2019 elections.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) patriarch Sharad Pawar in an interview to CNN-News18 said "a pre-poll grand alliance is not practical given the regional compulsions of parties in states."
"There is a lot of media speculation, lot of write-ups about some alternative front like a mahagathbandhan (grand alliance). But I don't see anything like that. I don't see that possibility. Some of our friends want that, but it's not practical," Pawar said in the interview.
"As per my assessment, it will be a state-wise position. There might be states like Tamil Nadu, where the number one party will be the DMK and other non-BJP parties will have to accept it. If you go to Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, you will find the Congress there will be the number one party. In Andhra Pradesh, one has to accept the Telugu Desam Party. K Chandrashekhar Rao's party will the important factor in Telangana. In Odisha, (Naveen) Patnaik will be the important force. In Bengal, it will be Mamata Banerjee. These people will consolidate their position in their respective states as a state leader, as a state party and not as a gathbandhan," the NCP chief added.
But Pawar did share hope for a possibility of the non-BJP parties coming together after the elections.
Looking at all these intricacies involving the formation of a grand alliance, the Congress has now decided to stitch various alliances with various parties in different states.
Congress media in-charge Randeep Surjewala said, "Alliances need to be sewed up State-to-State. There can be no one-size- fits-all alliance. Every State has regional parties. Just to site an example, NCP and Congress are in alliance in Maharashtra and talks are on to finalise it. But it can't be transposed to Gujarat for we feel that in Gujarat we don't need an alliance. We have again decided to fight the elections in Bihar with the RJD. But the same alliance will not work in Uttar Pradesh."
The comment made by Surjewala is a clear indication that the Congress has abandoned the idea of a pan-India grand alliance. Will the Congress' latest idea of formation of alliances in various states work out in its favour?
Will the Congress' future coalition partners be a part of the grand alliance at the national level? All these issues make for an interesting study on the feasibility of coalition politics.