HD Kumaraswamy of JD(S) is all set to swear-in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka on Wednesday at the Vidhan Soudha in Bengaluru. West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC head Mamata Banerjee, BSP chief Mayawati, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and head of RDP N Chandrababu Naidu, Telangana Chief Minister and head of TSR K Chandrasekhar Rao and Delhi Chief Minister and convenor of AAP Arvind Kejriwal are among the prominent leaders who will be attending the swearing-in ceremony. The congregation is a possible indication towards the kind of grand anti-BJP alliance or mahagathbandhan the 2019 general elections could witness.
This is the second time Mamata Banerjee has played a crucial role in stitching together two political parties mutually averse to each another. Earlier, during the Uttar Pradesh by-polls for Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha constituencies, Banerjee had advised Akhilesh Yadav to ally with Mayawati. However, advising the JD(S) and the INC to prevent the BJP from coming to power in Karnataka is a master political stroke as the BJP was looking for a gateway to south India by winning Karnataka.
Mayawati has also been on the forefront for the formation of a mahagathbandhan. She has attacked the BJP for the use of money power and state machinery, saying that it is not always helpful. She advised the BJP to take lessons from the fall of the BS Yeddyurappa government in Karnataka. SP president Akhilesh Yadav also has termed the collapse of the three-day-old BS Yeddyurappa government as a “victory of the people’s mandate” and asked the central government to resign on moral grounds.
The BJP’s attempt to “subvert democracy” in Karnataka has “failed miserably”, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said. He will be attending the swearing-in ceremony of Kumaraswamy.
Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu earlier accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of betraying the people of Andhra on granting of special status, building a new capital and other promises under the AP State Reorganisation Act, 2014. Telangana’s Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had also slammed the Modi government, pointing out the incidents of farmers’ suicides and asked why this is happening even after 70 years of independence.
The swearing-in of Kumaraswamy, who will be heading the JD(S)-INC alliance government in Karnataka, can be seen as an opportunity for regional parties to cobble together a united opposition that will take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
On the other hand, the mahagathbandhan may trigger a tussle for power among the opposition parties. In 2015, Yadav had offered a political deal to the INC. He had then said that the Samajwadi Party was game for a tie-up if party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav was projected as the prime ministerial candidate for 2019 with INC president Rahul Gandhi as his deputy. The statement made by Yadav Jr raises a question whether Gandhi will accept his offer.
Similarly, the other group of regional parties like the SP, BSP and TMC are open to State-specific pre-poll alliances with the INC, depending on its strength in the respective States. While INC may play a smaller role in States like Uttar Pradesh, where it is a marginal player, regional parties like the BSP may have to settle for a compromise with the INC in States like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, where the grand old party is the main opposition party.
How would Banerjee reconcile with the CPM in West Bengal? Can Yadav and Mayawati be able to transfer their respective voters to each in Uttar Pradesh? On top of it, Can’t the INC concede their turf to regional parties?
Kejriwal and the INC are at loggerheads in Delhi. Can the two parties sink their differences and be part mahagathbandhan.
Also, how can Mayawati take a high moral ground when she has been herself accused of indulging in corrupt practices? Chances are high that the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre revives the disproportionate assets cases against her to stop her from being a part of the mahagathbandhan.
Though the coming together of opposition leaders by way of participation in the oath-taking ceremony of Kumaraswamy seems to be a wake-up call for the BJP, it would be premature to conclude that the ceremonial gathering of these leaders will lead to a concretisation of the elusive mahagathbandhan for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as there are sharp differences between the proposed constituents of this grand alliance.
However, in the event that the mahagathbandhan materialises, the BJP will be in deep trouble, as witnessed in Bihar. Rarely has the vote share of the BJP been above 50% in any State election. It cannot match up to the combined strength of the opposition. This is why a principal task BJP president Amit Shah has been entrusted with is to ensure a repeat of the rare feat in the Lok Sabha elections. That will render the mahagathbandhan ineffective. But that being easier said than done, the BJP will also try its best to create circumstances that would make the grand opposition alliance near impossible.
And then, there are some apparent allies of the opposition that may switch sides. If the BJP has burnt the bridges between the TDP and itself, a return of the DMK to the NDA, reminiscent of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime, is on the cards in case film star-turned-politician Rajinikanth does not take off with his own version of Hindu politics. The opposition is also not sure Rao of Telangana will stick to them.