Several opposition parties are regularly holding talks to forge an alliance to stop the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but the question is would the Congress be a part of it? Mixed reactions have come from leaders across political parties over the inclusion of Congress.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seems to play the main role to galvanise the opposition parties for a united fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On March 28, Banerjee was in Delhi and met leaders of several opposition parties, including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena parliamentarian Sanjay Raut. Banerjee also attended a dinner hosted by Pawar, where discussions regarding forging an anti-BJP front were held.
Last month, TRS chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao called on Banerjee in Kolkata and both stressed on the need for a front comprising of regional parties to stop the BJP. KCR had earlier called for a non-BJP and non-Congress front. Another thing to note is that Banerjee had skipped the dinner that was hosted by the UPA chief earlier in March.
So, within this so-called 'anti-BJP' front, the opinion on Congress' inclusion is not clear.
"The Congress is required for the country. It cannot be bypassed. Even in its weakened state, it alone has the pan-Indian reach other parties lack," Pawar has reportedly told the opposition parties.
Pawar believes the Congress, for its part, should recognise the strength of regional players and be realistic in its dealings with them.
The Congress leaders have been saying that a third front will not be possible without them. Senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily had last month said that any attempt form an anti-BJP front without Congress is "not desirable". West Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury last week said an anti-BJP front in the country "can succeed only under party president Rahul Gandhi's leadership".
Amid all this, Shiv Sena's moves will be closely watched. Sena is still part of the NDA but the party has been one of the most severe critics of the Modi government. Shiv Sena, one of oldest allies of the BJP, has time and again come out in the open to criticise the BJP. Sanjay Raut had even hinted that they may contest 2019 polls on their own.