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Those who skipped Oppn’s Presidential talks: Their compulsions and calculations

YSRCP, TRS, AAP and BJD are set to skip Mamata Banerjee-led meeting. But they have chosen not to reveal their cards

Presidential race, Opposition meet, Presidential polls, Mamata banerjee, Mamata Oppn meet, TRS, BJD, YRS Congress, political Pulse, Indian expressWest Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and NCP leader Sharad Pawar at the latter’s residence in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

As the Presidential race heats up, senior leaders of several Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, will meet Wednesday evening to deliberate on their joint nominee who will take on the yet-to-be-named NDA candidate. However, some of the prominent parties will be missing at the Mamata Banerjee-led meeting.

Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP, the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh, the Aam Aadmi Party, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) are unlikely to attend the Opposition conclave despite being invited. The AAP is in power in Delhi and Punjab, the BJD in Odisha and the TRS in Telangana.

The absence of these parties exposes the fault lines in the Opposition camp and explains the confidence of the ruling BJP when it says that it will easily sail through in the elections.

Party sources in the Trinamool Congress, which put out a letter that West Bengal Chief Minister and party chief Mamata Banerjee had written to leaders of various Opposition parties, inviting them for the meeting, said fence-sitters who do not want to take on the BJP will be exposed if their party does not show up for the meeting.

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But it is perhaps not that simple — there are other compulsions, contradictions and calculations that define their stand.

Biju Janata Dal

While Naveen Patnaik’s BJD had been invited to the meeting, even the TMC knows that he will not send any representative.

The BJD, while openly professing a policy of equi-distance from the BJP and the Opposition, has been following a path of non-confrontation with the government, even backing them on some key Bills in Parliament. This despite the fact that the BJP had been trying hard to make inroads in Odisha — they had tasted some success in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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But the BJD prefers to view state politics and national politics differently.

It had backed Ram Nath Kovind in 2017. BJD leaders say Patnaik is on a very strong wicket in Odisha and that he can afford to adopt a non-confrontationist approach towards the BJP government at the Centre and continue to claim its equi-distance stand.

YSR Congress Party

The case of the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led party is different. Opposition leaders allege he is conciliatory to the BJP because of the disproportionate assets case registered against him by the Enforcement Directorate, which, they say, gives the BJP government a ready handle to control him.

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The Congress is no longer a player in Andhra Pradesh. For Jagan, his main rival is the TDP. The TDP was in alliance with the BJP in the past. A conciliatory approach towards the central government would ensure that the BJP and the TDP do not come together. A divided BJP is an ideal situation for Jagan.

Both Patnaik and Jagan had separate meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last fortnight and the BJP believes both will extend their support to the NDA nominee.

Telangana Rashtra Samithi

The case of the K Chandrashekar Rao-led TRS is more curious.

It was a fence sitter leaning towards the BJP all this while. But the BJP’s aggressive bid to carve out a space for itself in Telangana has forced it to change tack. Unlike Andhra, the Congress continues to be a force in Telangana. Thus he cannot share a platform where the Congress is present. At the same time, Chief Minister KCR has national ambitions for which he needs to be friendly with some of the regional parties.

So his party will not attend meetings of Opposition parties where the Congress is present but will continue to rail against the BJP. Opposition leaders believe he will extend support to an Opposition nominee citing the “larger national interest” of combating the BJP while staying away from Opposition conclaves. The TRS had supported the NDA nominee in 2017.

AAP Aadmi Party

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The AAP, which is in power in Delhi and Punjab, has a similar dilemma. It does not prefer to be part of Opposition groupings to signal that it charts an independent course. But it is opposed to the BJP and is at loggerheads with the Congress. In fact, it aspires to take the Congress space in many states. But Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal shares a good rapport with Banerjee and is likely to remain in informal touch with some of the Opposition parties and extend support to its nominee.

First published on: 15-06-2022 at 01:45:45 pm
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