New Delhi: As voting for the 17th Lok Sabha comes to an end on Sunday, Opposition parties’ attempt to create a 1977-like situation failed miserably, forcing them to make a last attempt to unite after the results are declared on 23 May. Though unity among the Opposition parties could not be achieved before the elections, the same is being attempted after the results, in the hope that there would be a hung Parliament. There is contradiction whether the Congress should be a part of the non-BJP coalition or not.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi has swung into action to bring the Opposition parties on board in a bid to form the next government. Sonia Gandhi is working out a “Unity Meet” of all the Opposition parties on Thursday soon after the results are announced. Her enthusiasm stems from the hope that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would not be able to get a majority and there would be a hung Parliament. Sources said even parties like Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) could be invited for the meeting, although they are not part of the UPA and contested the elections without any alliance with the Congress. “We are also trying to rope in fence-sitters Naveen Patnaik (Biju Janata Dal) and K. Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana Rashtra Samithi) in an attempt to form an anti-BJP government at the Centre,” a source said.
Before the elections, despite attempts by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu to stitch together an alliance against the NDA, Congress was left in the lurch as it was not taken on board by the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh, or in West Bengal where the Trinamool Congress (TMC) contested elections alone. The only major states where Congress had a “real alliance”, which was called the “Grand Alliance”, are Bihar (with RJD), Jharkhand (with JMM and JVM) and Karnataka (with JDS).
KCR had also floated the idea of an alliance against the BJP before the elections. However, while Naidu was supporting Congress’ presence in the non-BJP coalition, KCR wanted a non-Congress and non-BJP alliance of regional parties.
In 1977, the entire Opposition got together to form a formidable Janata alliance against the ruling Congress, which resulted in a landslide victory for the former. The alliance won 345 seats, with the major Opposition party—Janata Party—bagging 298, following which India’s first non-Congress Prime Minister Morarji Desai took charge. The Congress lost about 200 seats and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi both lost their seats. The Congress was confined to 153 seats.
However, this time, though Opposition parties had only one agenda—removing Modi—they failed to create a 1977-like situation.
“They were neither able to form an alliance in ‘real’ terms nor could they choose their leader, who could have been projected as the PM candidate against Modi. Moreover, these Opposition parties could not place before the voters their blue print of governance, which could be different or better from what Modi had to offer,” the source said. As a result of this, though the Opposition camp is hoping that BJP will be restricted below 150 seats, none of them is anticipating even in their wildest dream that Congress will come close to the BJP. “Their only hope is that there will be a hung Parliament, with NDA falling short of majority and that they will take this opportunity to somehow cobble together the non-NDA parties to form an alternate government at the Centre,” he added.
However, there have been contradictions even before the “Unity Meet” takes place. The TDP is unhappy with the UPA’s move to reach out to KCR and YSR Congress Party leader Jagan Mohan Reddy. KCR met DMK chief M.K. Stalin and reportedly asked him to join an anti-BJP, anti-Congress coalition. But, Stalin is said to have declined to leave UPA and instead asked KCR to join the UPA.