New Delhi: Regional players are taking the lead in forming an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance along with the Congress —the latest in a string of attempts to bring opposition parties on a single platform ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Chandrababu Naidu drums up support from regional parties to take on BJP
The move is significant not just because it is being led by regional forces instead of the Congress, but also because on Thursday regional satraps spoke about working together on a common minimum programme (CMP).
The mainstay of the latest attempt is Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu who has held a series of meetings with key regional parties and Congress leaders in the last one week.
On Thursday, Naidu held two key rounds of meetings. One was with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Jammu Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) chief Farooq Abdullah. The second, held in the evening, was with Congress president Rahul Gandhi. He also held series of meetings late evening with other regional leaders including with Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, former SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
In the last one week, Naidu has met Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, as well as Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chiefArvind Kejriwal.
“The principal challenge in front of all the opposition today is to work together, defend India’s institutions, defend Indian democracy. Everything else is secondary, we are going to do what is primary,” Gandhi said.
The Congress and the TDP, a former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, will work together to defeat the BJP, he said. The two parties have agreed to contest elections together in Telangana, which goes to polls next month.
Naidu echoed Rahul Gandhi at a joint media interaction with the Congress president after the meeting. “We have to save the nation and save democracy, that is our mission. I discussed with Rahulji also. In principle we agreed. Some of you are having a doubt about our past. It is a democratic compulsion now. We have to join together to protect this country,” Naidu said.
While the TDP chief stressed more on the Congress being the key opposition party in the media interaction, in the earlier joint press conference with Pawar and Abdullah, the larger narrative was about Naidu taking a lead in bringing other opposition parties on board.
“As Sharadji has said, (we will) work out a common minimum programme (CMP)…Chandrababuji will be talking to all other leaders so that we can meet here in Delhi. All three of us will be conveners of that meeting which will be held here,” Abdullah said.
The key players are now “galvanizing” their steps to bring together opposition parties, said N. Bhaskar Rao, a New Delhi-based political analyst. However, the move should be seen as one taken by regional parties along with the Congress and not just the regional parties taking the lead, he said.
“The main impact of such an alliance will be seen at the next stage, which is 11 December. I think this is a strategy on behalf of the Congress that regional leaders should prop up Rahul Gandhi. It was visible today as Naidu spoke about Gandhi thrice in his press conference,” Rao said. Rao was referring to a quote of Naidu at the briefing with Gandhi where he said: “As the leader of this nation, he (Gandhi) is the main opposition leader of this nation.”