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Workable Strategy

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Following the Congress victory in Karnataka, the opposition is seeing more than a ray of hope in its struggle to defeat the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Most parties had given up on the Congress as the ‘central force’ in any opposition alliance because of its string of defeats and failure to make an impression on the electorate. Now, however, a leader like TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee has conceded that her party may extend support to the Congress on the condition that it does not pose a challenge to her in West Bengal.

And therein lies the rub! If, for the sake of opposition unity against the BJP, parties will have to surrender space beyond their acknowledged areas of influence, they would deny themselves a political future. It is true that the ideologies of some parties are confined to caste, region, even race, but surely they cannot surrender their right to expand for the sake of what is always an illusionary unity. One need only to look back at the brief periods of opposition unity under Morarji Desai and VP Singh to realise how fragile it proves once electoral victory is achieved. It becomes an even bigger problem when parties fighting for the same space are expected to join hands. How much, for instance, will AAP compromise with the Congress in Punjab and Delhi?

So, much as the wishful thinkers might like to imagine a ‘straight’ fight between the BJP and the opposition, it is unlikely to work. The only possibility is if the public mood is built up against the BJP on issues of substance. Even in Karnataka, the opinion polls have shown that the electorate still favours Modi as the PM.

It will help the opposition if it has as many governments in the states as possible, as that could take away the seats the BJP needs for a comprehensive majority. The best option would be a post-election coalition based on the reality of seats won by each party. But that would require the maturity and leadership none among the opposition leaders have displayed thus far. One only needs to see the factionalism that has broken out within the Congress in Karnataka that will require not just the appointment of a chief minister, but also three deputy chief ministers to appease. The best recourse for every party, particularly the Congress, is to set its house in order and take the opportunity to become genuine cadre based organisations rather than mere extensions of a leader’s ego.