After wresting the three Hindi heartland states from the BJP, the Congress party Monday amped up the rhetoric of a united opposition to defeat the ruling party ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
At the swearing-in ceremonies of all Chief Minister designates-Ashok Gehlot for Rajasthan, Kamal Nath for Madhya Pradesh and Bhupesh Bhagel for Chhattisgargh- the grand old party mobilised the voice of the opposition with a show of strength. This, however, has not dimmed speculations on the absentees.
The bus, which took the opposition leaders to the oath-taking ceremony of Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, was riddled with the optimism of a mahaghatbandhan, but not without the rather strained efforts to bring everyone on board. Though leaders from across the political spectrum of the country, sans the BJP, claimed their seats, the absentees made more noise.
The BSP which supported the Congress party in forming the government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where it fell slightly short of the majority mark, was one such missing piece. Mayawati had refused to form a pre-poll alliance with the Congress after disagreements in seat-sharing in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and went ahead to ally with former Congress leader Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh.
Meanwhile, Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party too was a prominent absentee, despite supporting the Congress to form the government in Madhya Pradesh, together with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who, however, sent lawmaker Dinesh Trivedi to represent the Trinamool Congress.
Notably, all the three leaders were present at the swearing-in ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy in Karnataka in May this year, the first time the opposition leaders joined hands (literally) to make their agenda for a grand alliance loud and clear. Now when the time is near and the BJP, with its recent failures, on its toes to prevent a redux in general elections, the assertive voice of the opposition seems to be reducing to an echo.
Sanjay Singh’s presence at the oath-taking ceremony of Ashok Gehlot in Jaipur, however, projected a diffusion of tension between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, the rival parties at loggerheads in the national capital.
Nonetheless, the spotlight was stolen by the absentees, shedding light on another possibility- that of a third front by regional parties. If the mahagathbandan is to be, the Congress will have to find a way to bring all stakeholders in its stride, to oil the engine of the opposition bus and cross the hurdle to reach its destination with everyone on board.