‘Bharat Jodo Yatra has given the party a boost and the moral high ground to lead the opposition ranks from the front’.
NEW DELHI: There are presumably two ways how opposition unity would take place for the general elections in 2024. One, Congress would take lead and want the state parties to pledge allegiance to the prime opposition house (Congress), as the party looks bolstered by the Bharat Jodo Yatra response. And two—this seems less likely currently—it would follow the unity-making formulae offered by Nitish Kumar wherein Kumar could bring together different state parties.
However, Congress leaders, who believe the Yatra has brought it back from dead, also believe there was a vacuum left by the party’s inactivity over the recent years that had led many state leaders to attempt to fill the empty space, thereby reducing the grand old party’s standing and diminishing its national image as a major opposition force.
A senior Congress leader said, “Now, things have changed with this yatra; whichever party wants to strengthen our hands is welcome to join us and everyone would be respected.”
On whether the party has taken a hard stand to lead the opposition from front, a senior steering committee Congress member said, “To think Congress won’t consider Nitish Kumar’s idea of unity would be reading too much between the lines.” However, he further indicated that the Congress is leveraging itself so that it can bargain better for seat count for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Another Congress leader said, “The yatra has given the party a boost and the moral high ground to lead the opposition ranks from the front. All that is needed is to keep this momentum going.”
A leader close to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said, “There has been no talk about opposition unity, there have been no discussions; it doesn’t exist for now. This issue is not immediate right now. Two things are clear: we are strengthening our party with this yatra and our agenda is anti-RSS. On this, we have invited all the leaders from opposition ranks. Whosoever is against the policies of RSS, we are open to alliance with them.”
After Nitish Kumar broke up with the BJP, and stepped away to negotiate with possible partners who could be a part of the broad-based UPA alliance. Kumar accorded centrality to the grand old party. Subsequently, it was expected that the next step would be taken by Congress. However, the yatra had put the opposition unity agenda on the backburner.
A senior JDU leader wishing anonymity said, “No, there is nothing like distance between Nitishji and Congress. It’s just that the time is not right. They are right now busy in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, when Nitishji met Soniaji, she said that after the Yatra we will talk, the talks are still in consideration and after the Yatra ends, we are very hopeful that they will call us.”
The senior leader also said that Kumar is in touch with AAP and other state parties, who also believe that a bigger alliance should take place against the BJP.
The leader added, “Who he has met or what he has spoken to them or even what they have said, it wouldn’t be correct to disclose right now, but things are in the right direction and we are up for the bigger opposition.”