A year before 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP led National Democratic alliance has suffered a major setback as one after the other its allies are quitting. Its Andhra ally, Telugu Desam Party, withdrew its support last week soon after the BJP lost by polls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh to SP-BSP combine. Earlier in the month, former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi walked out. While another NDA ally, Shiv Sena, is extremely critical of the BJP for some time, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too has started criticising the BJP.
Opposition parties are hobnobbing with each other to forge a political front ahead of 2019 elections. After Telugu Desam Party made an exit and two of the NDA allies moved a no-confidence motion in the Parliament, opposition parties have begun working overtime to forge an alliance against the BJP led NDA. It is too early to know the form and shape of the proposed alliance.
Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Professor K V Thomas to know if the decline of NDA was imminent and also the electoral strategy of opposition parties for next year's parliamentary elections. Professor Thomas blamed the NDA government of not allowing the Parliament to function on one or the other pretext. He defended the opposition shouting slogans saying it was well within its rights to raise voice for issues of public concern and reminded the BJP of its conduct when it was in opposition.
On the opposition unity for 2019 elections, he stressed that the proposed alliance against the NDA will comprise of regional parties and Congress as a national party.
IC: Is NDA withering away after the TDP made an exit? Shiv Sena said that it would go all alone in the 2019 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls, Nitish Kumar too targetted the NDA.
Professor K V Thomas: The government has instigated agitation in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha due to which proceedings were stalled in Parliament. NDA partners have become unhappy as they have lost faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The dictatorship of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP has isolated them from NDA allies and the opposition parties as well. The NDA government was expected to fulfil the commitments made to Andhra Pradesh after the division of AP by the UPA II government. However, the TDP and YSR Congress together are fighting against the NDA government for not fulfilling the promises made to Andhra Pradesh.
IC: The fallout of difference of opinion in the NDA will help opposition parties consolidate their position…
All secular political parties are getting united with Congress which will lead them.
IC: Less than a year after its spectacular victory in UP, the BJP has lost two key seats to the Samajwadi Party. Gorakhpur was won five times by Yogi Adityanath until he became Chief Minister last year. Phulpur was vacated by deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. The loss has embarrassed the BJP. What is lesson for Congress party from these two results?
The Congress is trying to bring all non BJP parties- democratic, socialist and secular parties on a national platform. We are trying our best to bring together regional parties like DMK, AIADMK and CPI(M) for 2019 elections. We have succeeded to some extent.
IC: The role of regional parties is becoming more crucial than national parties like Congress. Your comments.
That’s not true. There are regional parties like Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, DMK in Tamil Nadu and BJD in Odisha but national parties have a bigger role to play at the national level. Although Congress party is not in power in many states, we are present in every nook and corner of the country. You can see people holding congress placard in every village which shows our presence in the entire country. No other party has a mass base like the Congress party.
IC: F ormer general secretary Prakash Karat has said in an editorial in People’s Democracy that the most effective electoral tactic to defeat the BJP in Lok Sabha polls will be “to ensure pooling of anti-BJP votes state-wise”, the way it was done in the UP by-elections. He also said that the Congress has no credibility to lead an alliance against the BJP in terms of alternative programme.
The CPI(M) has got restricted to Kerala where it is running the government. In Kerala, Congress and CPI(M) had to fight separately against the BJP. At the national level, Congress is the only party to give a leadership.
IC: But Karat has also ruled out a UPA-I style alliance...
UPA-I had been a successful experiment. It was the CPI(M) which made a historical blunder by quitting the Congress led coalition. It later realized its mistake. Left Democratic Front (LDF) was contained in Kerala by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) so CPI(M) cannot support Congress openly. So outside Kerala, it will explore options for political alliance. Congress has the experience of forging alliances.
IC: Do you think Prakash Karat’s idea of a ‘federal front’, which will be non-BJP and non-Congress, is feasible?
It is practically impossible to have a federal front without Congress party. Who else can give a leadership? It is time to fight together against the BJP misrule.
IC: Will non-BJP alliance be forged before 2019 elections?
We will be practical while forging an alliance so it will take some time. But basically, all secular and democratic parties will have to stand together to fight against the BJP’s dictatorial rule.(Published on 26th March 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 13)