Sonia Gandhi hard-pressed to get the Opposition going.



New Delhi: The Congress’ plan to hit the streets along with the entire Opposition against the Narendra Modi government’s policies seems to have failed to make headway. The leaders of 19 political parties on 20 August assured the Congress that they would launch a country-wide agitation against the Modi government from 20 September to 30 September. But nothing seems to be taking off.

Only Tamil Nadu’s ruling party DMK, which is a UPA constituent, has announced to organize an agitation from 20 September in the state against the central government. But there is no sign of any such action in the Congress ruled states and also in the states such as Jharkhand and Maharashtra where Congress is in ruling alliance. The TMC is also not taking any interest in Bengal. However, Congress is hopeful of the success of the campaign it has planned against the Modi government. The committee led by Digvijaya Singh wants to hold the agitation along with Opposition parties. But it seems to be difficult for the Congress to implement that. Another important fact is that the Congress wants to lead the Opposition on farmers and price rise issues, but state politics is spoiling its plan. As far as farmers’ issues are concerned, what the Congress is doing is just trying to be seen with the farmers’ agitation. Instead of launching its own agitation, the grand old party is supporting the Bharat Bandh called by the agitating farmers on 27 September.

The real fight, in fact, is for the leadership role of the Opposition. Facing resentment in the party, Congress’ interim president Sonia Gandhi somehow tried to unite the Opposition during the Monsoon session of Parliament. It was on 20 August that the leaders of 19 parties including NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee had attended the meeting organized by Sonia. A memorandum of 11 demands was submitted to the government. The decision to hold agitation against the government was also taken.

However, the Samajwadi Party and BSP had stayed away from the meeting, and AAP remained uninvited. It means that Congress will have to go it alone in UP polls. What Sonia Gandhi did was that she set up an eight-member panel under the leadership of Digvijaya Singh to formulate a strategy to corner the government over various issues. AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was also put on this panel so that Digvijaya could help her in UP.  The first meeting of this committee took place on Tuesday but no strategy could be finalised. The Congress is finding it difficult to start anything on its own. Last year also, Congress’ plan to hit the streets against the issues of price hike, women atrocities, farmers’ problems had come a cropper. After farmers started agitation, the Congress submitted a memorandum containing signatures to the President of India demanding revocation of three farm laws.

Once, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were on the streets, after which Congress looked to be high on morale. But the poll results of Assam, Kerala and other states took the steam out of whatever movement Congress could have built by then. After the Kerala defeat, Rahul Gandhi was in trouble, for the UPA constituents started looking for a new leader. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee herself started the mission to find out someone who could lead afresh. Meanwhile, the Congress’ 23 disgruntled leaders got active. Sonia Gandhi realized the challenge being posed to Rahul Gandhi. Later, she got active in a bid to unite the Opposition. The plan did not take off. Actually, what Mamata Banerjee was concerned about the by-election, which had been announced by the Election Commission. Now she will hardly take any interest in central politics. The faster rate of vaccination has improved the image of PM Narendra Modi. MSP has been increased to placate the farmers whose agitation is said to have taken political overtones, given the statements of Rakesh Tikait. Observers believe that like his father Mahendra Singh Tikait, Rakesh Tikait may suddenly call off the agitation. Mahendra Tikait had called off the farmers’ agitation all of a sudden in 1988 at Boat Club. With this being the case, the Congress looks to be isolated. Digvijaya Singh could return to party headquarters due to Sonia Gandhi. He had been once removed by Rahul Gandhi. Now what remains to be seen is how Digvijaya manages to build a movement against the Modi government.