The opposition parties winning 11 of 14 seats in the bypolls, nine assembly and two Lok Sabha seats, on May 31 is a clear indication that the BJP is losing support in its strongholds. The defeat in Kairana parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh is a second reminder to the ruling BJP that a united Opposition comprising Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh is a political force to reckon with. The BJP faced a similar defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Assembly bypolls in March.
The developments in Karnataka and bypoll results have brought together the opposition leaders who are now willing to forge an alliance to defeat the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh which are all set to go for polls in few months' time. Can unity in opposition stay till 2019 elections? Can united opposition take on the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 elections?
Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to CPI National Secretary D Raja to know the opposition’s plans. Raja looked extremely confident and said the opposition will certainly put up a united fight against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019. All regional parties and the Congress should join hands to fight against the BJP and communal forces, he conceded. The CPI leader said that the immediate task at hand is the elections for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Assemblies, where Congress will be a major force. He said that Congress will be part of grand alliance of opposition parties for 2019 elections.
IC: What are the lessons learnt from Karnataka and by polls victory in 11 seats?
D Raja: In Karnataka, the BJP claimed that it would be a gateway to the south and would win more than 150 seats. The BJP leaders made several efforts to polarise voters of Karnataka. Some of the BJP ministers during the campaign said that PM Modi was here to change the Constitution. The Karnataka results proved that the mandate was not for any single party and there was a need to stop the BJP from grabbing power. So, the Congress and JD(S) agreed to form a government in Karnataka. Otherwise, BJP would have manipulated as it had done in Manipur, Goa and Meghalaya.
IC: In Karnataka, the tussle between the Congress and JD(S) for portfolio is no secret. The unity in Opposition looks fragile. What is the guarantee that the coalition government will complete its full term?
Both the parties have taken a realistic view of the ground situation and hence formed a coalition government. There will be problems but these can be sorted out through dialogue. Both the parties cannot afford to lose the opportunity. The arrangement looked fragile at the time of government formation, but not now. They have to work out strategies to run the government successfully.
IC: Some of the regional parties like Trinamool Congress and TRS have spoken about forging an alliance and maintain equal distance from the Congress and the BJP. Do you think it is a feasible proposition?
Few regional parties had taken such a position against the Congress and joined hands with the BJP few years ago. It is true that regional parties have a tendency to swing between left and right or vice versa. The CPI feels that even if regional parties do not swing towards left, they should not swing towards right of centre in the interest of the country. Regional parties have learnt enough lessons not to trust the BJP.
Congress seems to have become more realistic now. It cannot conduct as it used to in the 1960s or 70s. Therefore, Congress needs to work with the left and regional parties. I do not think that anybody can equate BJP with Congress. Nobody can say that they can maintain equal distance from the BJP and the Congress. The BJP government is RSS controlled government. BJP is a tool in the hands of RSS whose ideology is sectarian, divisive, communal and fascist in nature. The RSS is pushing its agenda of Hindutva and Hindu rashtra which needs to be stopped anyhow.
IC: How about regional parties which are not willing to make adjustments with the Congress?
Congress will have to make adjustments wherever a regional party is in a strong position. In UP, you cannot minimise the role of BSP or SP. The Congress should learn how to work with regional parties.
IC: That way, Congress will become weak despite being a national party...will face an identity crisis.
No, that's not true. Congress is a pan India political party which has secular credentials. You cannot write off Congress at all. It will play a leading role in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh going to polls later in the year. In Punjab and Gujarat, it is Congress which plays the lead role. In some states, certain regional parties have a stronghold. At national level, Congress will play a major role because it is a pan India political party.
IC: Challenges before opposition parties to put up a united front against the BJP in 2019 elections will be many. Seat sharing and Prime Ministerial candidate are top among the many challenges.
There cannot be a single pattern for all the states as far as seat sharing is concerned. Electoral tactics can be state specific taking into consideration the balance of forces keeping in view the common objective to defeat the BJP. As far as prime ministerial candidate is concerned, I don't think it is an issue right now.
IC: Congress president Rahul Gandhi in one of his speech expressed his desire to become Prime Minister. Your comments.
These are claims. Every party will like to contest and win more seats. One should not find fault in it. About the alliance of opposition parties, pre-poll and post-poll alliance can happen. At national level, post poll alliance will take place. But we will have to wait till elections take place. We will be open to all kinds of arrangements to stop BJP from returning to power.
India has gone through several experiences of coalitions from the mid-90s which will help us to be more flexible, accommodative and realistic. The primary objective will be to save the country from the clutches of BJP, RSS and its affiliated organisations.
IC: For BJP too, Karnataka has come as a big shock. Hence they are busy revising their strategy. What will be your strategy?
Politics is not a simple arithmetic. It is a kind of Algebra. How you work out different social and political forces is important. What does Kairana bypoll result show? It shows that opposition parties have come together and people are leaving BJP. This happened despite the fact that PM held a road show in the name of Meerut highway. He attacked the opposition parties.
IC: What will be the roadmap for 2019 general elections?
We have not planned anything so far. But elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are slated to be held in few months' time. Congress is a major political force in these states as all the three states are BJP ruled states. We will have to wait and watch as to how Congress will work out its strategy, reach out to secular-democratic forces and make seat adjustments in these states.
IC: What will be your strategy for the monsoon session of Parliament in the wake of Karnataka elections and Kairana by poll results?
The BJP led government did not allow the Parliament to function in the budget session because of farmers' distress, dalit issue, PNB scam, Andhra special status and Cauvery inter-state water dispute etc. We will raise issues like fuel price hike, role of Governor in Karnataka, criteria for appointment of Governor etc. The downfall of BJP has already begun. That is the only way for opposition to stand united and fight against the BJP and RSS affiliated organisations.(Published on 04th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 23)