Is the opposition sidelining the Congress?

Even now, the opposition seems to be divided on whether to go with the Congress or not. Will these differences be resolved before 2024 approaches?

The arrest of Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia by the CBI in the now defunct Delhi Liquor Policy case has once again raised alarm bells among the opposition.

As many as 8 opposition parties have written a letter to the Prime Minister condemning the “reprehensible misuse of central institutions”. While several opposition parties have signed the letter, the largest opposition party in the country – the Congress – has stayed away.

This detail caught my attention. With only 1 year left for the 2024 general elections, there are open calls for opposition unity, however, no concrete action is seen in this regard. No party seems to be making the first move.

On the other hand, the Congress has already made it clear that if opposition parties want unity, it should be under the leadership of the Congress.

But there seems to be disagreement among some opposition parties. The letter is a recent example. Is there a rift between the opposites before they have a chance to come together? Why do some opposition parties want Congress out of the equation? And can anti-2024 unity really happen? Let’s discuss this in the article.

On Sunday, 8 major opposition parties jointly wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi complaining about the Centre’s “blatant misuse of central institutions”. Nine leaders of these parties also had signatures on this letter.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Delhi Chief Minister and AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal, National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister. Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav signed the letter.

“We hope you will agree that India is still a democratic country. The blatant misuse of central agencies against members of opposition parties indicates that we have transitioned from democracy to autocracy,” the letter said.

“… After a long spell, Manish Sisodia was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) without any evidence against him for alleged irregularities,” the opposition leaders said in a letter to Prime Minister Modi.

“Most of the prominent politicians who have been booked, arrested, raided or interrogated by investigative agencies under your administration since 2014 are from opposition parties. Interestingly, investigative agencies are working at a slow pace on opposition politicians who have joined the BJP,” the letter said.

Manish Sisodia has been remanded to judicial custody for 14 days today after the CBI custody ended. AAP has alleged that BJP is using central institutions to threaten party leaders.

Well, this is nothing new. In the past many opposition party leaders have also faced raids by IT, CBI or ED. Shiv Sena (UBT’s) Thackeray, Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD or Samajwadi Party leaders in Uttar Pradesh. In the past few years, such activities have become common. And the opposition has earlier raised its voice against what it calls targeted harassment of opponents. So what’s new this time?

One thing to note here is that it is a letter from the United Opposition. But the largest opposition party in the country, which has been talking about the issue for a long time – Congress is missing from the list.

So this letter is less concerned about BJP and more about the opposition. Is this rift within the opposition a sign of times to come?

Everyone knows Congress and its history of war. We won’t fall for it. But he had some scathing comments about not joining the anti-Congress effort.

AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said, “Congress disappears when national issues are raised. Congress has never stood with the opposition, this is their history. We are hearing the BJP claim that they will put Rahul Gandhi and Robert Vadra in jail. It’s just a war of words. Congress disappears when national issues are raised.

When Congress spokesperson Supriya Srinathe was asked about this, she said that the party’s position regarding Manish Sisodia is clear. He has accused the Modi government of misusing central institutions. But they also want a thorough investigation into the Delhi liquor policy scam.

So, although the opposition is talking about uniting to defeat the BJP, it can be understood that there are many internal conflicts among the opposition parties. Much of this has to do with Congress.

Can Congress be the joint leader of the opposition?

Well, the Congress, which successfully led the UPA as a coalition of like-minded parties from 2004-2014, hopes to recreate the same before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. And he is also expected to lead. However, many regional parties do not seem to be convinced. TMC’s Mamata Banerjee had already opted out and announced that she would be contesting alone. Even SP’s Akhilesh Yadav is not too keen on aligning with the Congress. AAP and Congress have been against each other since before the formation of the party. KCR of TRS is also not in favor of aligning with Congress.

A few days ago, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had said in a tweet that if a united opposition party is to be formed, it will have to be led by the Congress party. And he’s not wrong. Congress is the only party apart from BJP which has nationwide presence from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won 52 seats, and the rest of the opposition parties had a single digit vote share of 19.46%.

So when looking at the overall picture, the Congress is numerically the largest opposition party. Therefore, no opposition can succeed without Congress.

But still some opposition parties, especially those led by powerful opposition leaders, are reluctant to go with the Congress. why

For that, the picture has to be broken. Let’s go by state. Apart from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal and Chhattisgarh, which are the other states where Congress is strong enough to compete with BJP? The states I have named are states where only these two national parties dominate. But look at other states: West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee’s TMC is a stronger opponent of the BJP than the Congress, won the 2021 assembly elections without Congress support. Uttar Pradesh: Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav’s alliance with the Congress in 2017 failed miserably. After that, Akhilesh Yadav is also cautious about joining hands with Congress.

In Telangana obviously Congress is opposed to TRS and KCR. Then it is very difficult to unite the party at the national level. In Maharashtra, the party has been pushed to the fourth position in terms of seats. There are total 4033 MLAs in the country out of which 658 belong to Congress. In the last 8 years, the number of Congress MLAs in the country has reduced from 24% to 16%. The party does not have a single MLA in five states. 9 states have less than 10 MLAs.

So aligning with a party, reducing the footprint and allocating seats to them according to the seat allocation formula may mean less seats with strong regional opposition parties.

Second, the crisis of leadership. These small but strong regional parties also have strong leaders. A strong party leader. Against the Congress, whose leadership is said to be weak and unchallenged. With Mallikarjun Kharge as its chief, the Congress hopes to change this perception, but with Gandhiji at the party’s high command, it becomes difficult. Many opposition leaders would not accept Gandhi’s leadership.

Thirdly, there may be fear, even fear, of doubling down on the BJP’s pressure. Parties are already accusing the Modi government of misusing central institutions. They may fear that central agencies will redouble their efforts if there is scope for a larger opposition coalition or a tie-up with the Congress. This is likely to strengthen the Congress with alliances, while also drawing the ire of parties aligned with the Congress.

That is why many opposition parties do not want to align with Congress. But some believe that it is not possible to defeat the BJP without the active participation of the Congress in the alliance. It also includes JDU’s Nitish Kumar. DMK’s MK Stalin, neither signed the letter. Therefore, even though Congress has regional friends, they are few.

Even now, the opposition seems to be divided on whether to go with the Congress or not. Will these differences be resolved before 2024 approaches?

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