Updated: June 5, 2018 6:25:40 pm
The Congress is more capable than the BJP in building alliances and collaborating with parties, Rashtriya Lok Dal Vice President Jayant Chaudhary has said, asserting that the Rahul Gandhi-led party can play a key role in forging an opposition coalition for the 2019 polls.
Buoyed by the win in the Kairana parliamentary bypoll, he said public opinion and electoral results such as the bypoll victory will act as a “glue” for cementing a coalition for the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate Tabassum Hasan, who was supported by the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, triumphed last week over her BJP rival in Kairana to become the first Muslim face from Uttar Pradesh in the 16th Lok Sabha. Her victory also gave RLD, its first representative in the current Lok Sabha after the party drew a blank in the 2014 general election.
In an interview to PTI, Chaudhary said the BJP wants to make the 2019 polls a battle of personalities, but the opposition wants to project issues rather than a personality to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “They (the BJP) have built a personality cult around Modi and now they expect the opposition to also thrust upon the nation a similar figure so that the two can sort of take each other on,” the 39-year-old leader said.
Chaudhary, who is the son of RLD chief Ajit Singh and the grandson of former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, said there was more talent in the opposition ranks and more freedom to express than in the BJP. “So, I think going into 2019, I am not sure there will be an understanding of who’s on top and who’s at the bottom (of the opposition alliance), but we will be working together. That is important for the country,” he asserted.
Asked if Congress being a pan-India party could be the pivot of the opposition alliance to take on the BJP, he said, “Congress today is the largest opposition party and they have an organisation in most states of the country that is still strong. “… I see a good story emerging. Congress can definitely play that role. They can cooperate and collaborate more effectively than the BJP.”
He said that due to the manner in which the BJP has dealt with its own allies, the saffron party’s alliance partners were either breaking away or speaking very openly against it. “So, the Congress has an opportunity here to try and make new relationships with these partners as well,” he said. Asked if the Congress was more capable of building alliances and working in unison with parties in an alliance, Chaudhary said, “That’s my perception, (and) that is the perception of a lot of people in the political system.”
Chaudhary, whose party RLD has been in an alliance with the BJP in the past, also alleged that there was arrogance that had crept into the BJP and it was no longer ‘the party with a difference’. “They (the BJP) have shown that they are willing to grab power at any cost. So I think these are all signals and they are very threatening to smaller parties, to regional parties, to anyone who believes that there needs to be cooperation, so that’s why I think that there is a mindset now that’s been developed in the opposition parties at least that the BJP is a complete no,” he said.
The BJP leads the NDA coalition at the Centre. The Telugu Desam Party recently quit the NDA, while the Shiv Sena has been critical of the BJP over several issues. Chaudhary also asserted that if the alliance between his party, the SP, the BSP and the Congress in UP takes shape, it would help the Congress in states where it is involved in a direct contest with the BJP.
“I think ultimately it (the alliance in UP) will help Congress in the states where it is taking on the BJP, there numbers will go up… If Congress takes us along and tells us that lets work together in other states as well, some of these opposition leaders will be very willing to do that,” the former MP said. Acknowledging that seat sharing would not be easy for the grand alliance in UP, he said the “social coalition” formed was more important than just simple political arithmetic or simple political coalition.
“So, to sustain that social coalition, if political parties have to forego their own interest and work together, I think we should do it,” Chaudhary said. Talking about the Kairana bypoll win, he said it was basically a message to political parties that the alliance was also the people’s will. “It was a negative vote against BJP. It was also a positive vote for the opposition working together. Going forward it is this public opinion and these good results that will perhaps act as the glue for cementing the alliance,” Chaudhary said.
The united opposition victory in Kairana follows the BJP defeats in the Lok Sabha bye-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in March, and come just a year before the general election. Talking about his ‘Ganna not Jinnah’ campaign in Kairana, he said the campaign based around the farmer identity was able to trump the religious identity model.
“It is a strong signal that going forward also the antagonistic tone that the BJP has employed in many elections, the Hindu-Muslim rhetoric, it may not work,” Chaudhary said. Asserting that alliances are here to stay, he said the reason he feels the alliance in UP would continue was because it has tasted success.
“When you win an election, there is pressure from your workers, there is pressure from the voters to continue,” Chaudhary said.
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