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Show of strength in Karnataka: Opposition’s unity at Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in could make Modi uneasy

Karnataka: The oath-taking ceremony of Kumaraswamy in Karnataka was attended by leaders of almost all opposition parties in the country in what seemed like a choreographed show of strength by parties that are not part of the NDA.

Written by Nishant Shekhar | New Delhi | Updated: May 23, 2018 8:48:37 pm
Karnataka, kumaraswamy swearing in ceremony Karnataka: Opposition leaders, including Congress’ Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi, SP’s Akhilesh Yadav, AP CM Chandrababu Naidu, WB CM Mamata Banerjee, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, & newly sworn in Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy at Vidhana Soudha

As all the political drama settled down and HD Kumaraswamy faced the microphone in front of the Vidhan Soudha in Bengaluru to take oath as the chief minister of Karnataka, there was a strong message being sent to Delhi from the assemblage behind him. The oath-taking ceremony was attended by leaders of almost all opposition parties in the country in what seemed like a choreographed show of strength by parties that are not part of the NDA.

From Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan to West Bengal’s Mamata Bannerjee, chief ministers of the few states that are yet to have a BJP dispensation in power joined hands with leaders of former UPA, and Third Front constituents like the NCP and CPI(M). The list was long. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, IUML’s Kunhalikutty and Sharad Yadav were all on the stage. Beside the veterans, Kamal Haasan, a new entrant in Tamil Nadu politics, also attended the ceremony.

READ | H D Kumaraswamy takes oath of office, to face floor test tomorrow

This could well be what the opposition to the BJP, and Narendra Modi, in 2019 will look like, if they are still able to stay united, and on one stage, a few months from now. The powerplay of an united opposition at the Karnataka event, with bitter rivals forgetting the past to come together, underlines the pains these parties have to go through to take on the BJP in the next general election.

This picture of opposition unity at Kumaraswamy's swearing-in could make PM Modi uneasy JD(S)’s HD Kumaraswamy and Congress’ G Parameshwara with Governor Vajubhai Vala, after taking oath as Chief Minister and Deputy CM of Karnataka at Vidhana Soudha respectively (AP photo)

With the Congress offering unconditional support to the Janata Dal (Secular), despite lashing out at the party during the Karnataka poll campaign, the desperation in the opposition is evident. Political experts have raised doubts over the longevity of the JD(S)-Congress alliance, considering the rivalry between the workers of both parties on the ground. However, the senior leadership of both parties have affirmed that they are ready to hold on for the sake of “keeping the secular fabric” of the state intact, and to keep “communal forces out of power”.

With the Modi juggernaut, that set rolling after the 2014 victory, claiming state after state for the BJP, this seems to be the only way for the Congress and regional parties to stay afloat, or even relevant. The experiment worked recently in Uttar Pradesh, with an BSP-SP combine defeating the BJP in its bastions of Gorakhpur and Phulpur in the assembly bypolls earlier this year. The bypolls proved to be a turning point in UP politics after the BJP’s stupendous show in the state during the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 Assembly polls, where it won a phenomenal mandate.

Taking a cue from the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls, the BSP and SP are contesting the upcoming Kairana bypolls together. If both parties manage to hold on to their Muslim voters, the results are likely to be in their favour. While the Congress stayed away from the BSP-SP alliance during the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls, it has joined them for the Kairana test. Mayawati and Akhilesh attending the Kumaraswamy swearing-in together implies that the alliance between the old rivals remains firm for now.

This picture of opposition unity at Kumaraswamy's swearing-in could make PM Modi uneasy UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul gandhi being introduced to Nayakan Kamal Haasan at the Kumaraswamy swearing in ceremony. (Source: INC Twitter)

Interestingly, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was the first to underline the power of a united front after the UP bypoll results. She had met Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi in March and stressed on the need for the Congress to form a united opposition front against the BJP after the UP results. While Sonia didn’t speak about her meeting with Mamata at the time, both leaders sharing stage at the Karnataka event on Wednesday suggests that the TMC chief has managed to convince the UPA chairperson.

This picture of opposition unity at Kumaraswamy's swearing-in could make PM Modi uneasy BSP chief Mayawati along with Congress’ Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at the swearing-in ceremony of Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru. (Source: Twitter/INC)

While talks of a Third Front without the Congress and BJP were also doing the rounds, it was reported that NCP was apprehensive about its feasibility. NCP chief Sharad Pawar apparently insisted that Mamata had brought Sonia on board. Pawar was also among the leaders present at the swearing-in.

But what caught all eyes was the camaraderie between bitter rivals TMC and CPM at the event. CPM chief Sitaram Yechruy shaking hands with Mamata can’t be good news for the BJP. With the BJP making inroads into West Bengal, the Left has been reduced to a distant third in the race. And just like the BSP and the SP, if the TMC and CPM unite, the BJP’s road to power could be tougher.

BJP has already parted ways with the TDP and its animosity with Shiv Sena is also out in the open. The Akalis have been thrown out of power in Punjab, and the PDP is always a strange bedfellow for the BJP in Kashmir.

In all probability, Modi and Amit Shah will study the pictures from Bengaluru very closely.

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