For politicians leading various regional parties all over India, all roads led to Bengaluru on Wednesday. Karnataka CM HD Kumarswamy’s swearing in ceremony got converted into a political show of strength for all anti-BJP forces in India. It’s a very significant development just 12 months ahead of Lok Sabha elections of 2019.
Leaders right from Mamata Banerjee to Akhilesh Yadav and Tejasvi Yadav to Chandrababu Naidu were seen joining hands on the stage and very obviously indicating to the world that they are now a united force against the seemingly almighty Bharatiya Janata Party.
The tectonic shift in India’s politics that is witnessed over the past few years is that instead of the game being ‘Congress versus rest all’, now, the game is ‘BJP versus rest all’. India has seen similar gathering of various small or medium size regional parties getting together against the Congress in the past.
In 1977, they united against Indira Gandhi who seemed as invincible at that time as Narendra Modi seems now. But the million dollar question now is whether this kind of alliance would be effective really on the ground and whether it would last the tests of time?
On Wednesday, leaders were seen holding hands and getting cozy with each other but in that too, there was some unease spotted. Though we saw Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechuri greeting each other and holding hands, what would their equation be if next year they have to discuss seat sharing in Kerala? How would Mamata and Congress discuss campaigning as ‘one force’ in West Bengal? How would Akhilesh and Mayawati deal with sharing of seats in Uttar Pradesh? These are questions that do not seem to have easy answers. Sharing space on the ceremonial stage is one thing but sharing political space out in the field is a tough thing to achieve!
The discomfort Sonia Gandhi felt when she stood next to Sharad Pawar, could not be hidden. Clearly, she has not been able to forget that at one stage, he challenged her leadership within the Congress Party. Will Mamata and Left parties ever join hands to fight the BJP? They too seemed quite uncomfortable with each other on the stage.
The aggression that Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah have adopted in their operations has scared the regional parties so much that they now feel that their very existence is under threat.
After the assembly elections of Karnataka, Janata Dal (S) could have aligned easily with the BJP and taken a share in power, but they decided to stay away from Amit Shah because they knew that their political space would be gradually taken over by the BJP once they allow the BJP to be in power. That’s what the BJP has done in Maharashtra with Shiv Sena.
All these regional parties find that fear and a sense of intimidation emanating from the BJP is making them restless and that is the common ground on which they have gathered together.
But the big question is will that suffice for them to stay together during the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign. The Congress Party seems to be eager to provide ‘the glue’ for this alliance but only time will tell if the Congress succeeds in this strategy!