In a renewed bid to forge opposition unity, the top leaders of 16 political parties have pledged to save India’s “Saajha Viraasat” (composite heritage). They did so in a meeting hosted by the rebel Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav on 17 August.
The meeting was organised in the backdrop of JDU chief Nitish Kumar joining hands with the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on 26 July to form the government in Bihar.
Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, CPI National Secretary D Raja and senior leaders of Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Janta Dal (Secular), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha were some notable attendees. Former MP Prakash Ambedkar was also among the dignitaries present in the meeting.
The participants in the meeting spoke about the impending threat to communal harmony in India and the divisive politics of some dominant political outfits. They discussed the trend of projecting anything and everything as “anti-national”. They strongly challenged the politics of self-proclaimed ‘deshbhakts (patriots)’ and vowed to defeat them politically and electorally.
All of them acknowledged that the entire opposition will have to be united in the fight against the ‘vicious’ and ‘divisive’ ideology of BJP-RSS. But, unfortunately, none of the top leaders showed a road-map of countering the saffron brigade.
For instance, Rahul alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor, was trying to change the constitution of India. He also stressed on the need for unity in the fight against the BJP and the RSS.
“If we all fight unitedly, I can tell you they will not be seen anywhere,” he said.
Sharad Yadav, who has parted ways with his old-time colleague Nitish Kumar, said, “If people gets united even a Hitler cannot stand before them.”
Calling for a joint fight against “divisive and communal” forces, Sitaram Yechury said more Muslims chose to stay back in India than go to Pakistan after the partition. But this composite culture was now being tampered with to convert India into a “Hindu Rashtra”.
The statements like that of Rahul, Sharad and Yechury reflect that they know their ‘strength’ lies in fighting unitedly. But what about the road-map of fighting in unison?
Using the term “unitedly” repeatedly is not going to unite them in a tough political scenario, where the ruling dispensation is recklessly using and misusing the state machinery and other important institutions of the country.
However, there were speakers like Prakash Ambedkar and Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, Jayant Singh, who said the meetings and seminars were not going to help in a big way and stressed on the need of taking this fight to the booth level.
Ambedkar was of the view that until the opposition will not unite in its economic policies, they will not be able to give a tough fight to the BJP and RSS. He said, “On the one hand we demand privatisation of education and on the other we also wish that they be regulated by the government. How is this possible? There should be a clear policy as to which sector should be placed in public and which in private.”
The opposition should take the suggestions of Ambedkar seriously. They should strive hard to prepare a document like common minimum programme (CMP), which was the basis of the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The document will help them in identifying issues of national interest and then taking a uniform stand on them.
Similarly, they should also evolve a robust strategy to fight the BJP and RSS at ground level. Despite some shortcomings on road-map, the meeting hosted by Sharad Yadav was a step in the right direction.
This meeting was a show of strength by the opposition parties. The morale of opposition is certainly down after the betrayal by Nitish, but they are not out of the game.
Many states are going for assembly polls later this year and in 2018. The Lok Sabha election is only 20 months away. The people of India would like to see a strong consolidation of opposition parties in these polls.
(The author is a Delhi-based journalist. Views expressed here are the author’s own)