Major fault lines appeared in the anti-Modi opposition bloc on Wednesday with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee announcing her party’s decision to go it alone in West Bengal. There will be no seat adjustment with Congress or Left Front in the state, she said. In Punjab, chief minister Bhagwant Mann said, his Aam Aadmi Party will contest all 13 Lok Sabha seats . Mann ruled out any possibility of seat sharing with the Congress.
A peculiar situation has developed in Bihar with Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar giving broad signals of an impending tie-up with BJP, causing tensions in Congress and Lalu Prasad’s RJD camps. There are speculations that Nitish Kumar is awaiting firm signals from BJP central leadership for forging an alliance.
In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has shown Congress its place by announcing seat adjustment with Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. The state Congress has been clearly told that only two LS seats, Amethi and Rae Bareli, will be left for the party. Congress leadership has sought assistance from NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, and the latter reportedly spoke to Mamata Banerjee over phone.
Congress leaders are still hopeful that Mamata Banerjee will stay in the alliance. On her part, Mamata Banerjee has said, let Congress contest 300 Lok Sabha seats on its own and leave West Bengal to her party. She said, TMC has the strength to defeat BJP alone on its turf. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra entered Cooch Behar in West Bengal on Thursday, but Mamata Banerjee said, she had not been informed, nor invited to join the Yatra by Congress leaders till now.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tried to calm tempers by saying that both Mamata Banerjee and the Congress have a single aim to defeat BJP, and the opposition alliance cannot be complete without Mamata Banerjee. Jairam Ramesh said, “speed breakers are always there on roads, but that does not mean that the journey has ended”. TMC leader Kunal Ghosh countered this by saying that “double standards” of Congress high command is the main reason behind his party supremo’s decision. He said, while Congress leaders in Delhi praise Mamata, their leaders in Bengal target her almost daily. In Bengal, there are three main forces – TMC, Congress and Left Front. CPI-M leader Mohammed Salim alleged, it was Mamata who brought a split in Congress to help the BJP in the past, and she has again struck a deal with BJP. “Her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, facing ED inquiry, has got relief and that is why Mamata wants to walk out of the alliance”, he said. It is an open fact that Mamata Banerjee is unhappy with the barrage of verbal attacks on her by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who has been describing her as a BJP agent. A day before, Chowdhury had remarked that “Congress does not want alms from Mamata and the party has the strength to fight elections alone”. On Wednesday, on directions from party high command, Chowdhury maintained a low profile and refused to comment on Mamata’s announcement. But former Congress MP Deepa Dasmunshi alleged that Mamata has entered into a secret pact with BJP and has, therefore, walked out of the alliance. Dasmunshi said, Mamata has been acting like a mole in the opposition alliance. Mamata Banerjee’s strategy is quite clear. She knows, her straight fight in Bengal is with the BJP, and both the Congress and Left Front are a spent force now. They could not even open their account in the West Bengal assembly elections in 2021. Mamata feels that joining hands with both these parties will be of no use. She knows, even if she join hands with the Left Front, not a single Left supporter is going to vote for her party. Mamata does not want to keep the Left in her state-level alliance. She conveyed this to Congress leaders clearly. Secondly, Mamata offered two Lok Sabha seats in Bengal to Congress, but the latter wanted five seats. Mamata is unhappy that the Congress leadership gave full liberty to Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to give statements against her in Kolkata almost on a daily basis. She demanded that Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury be either expelled from the party or at least some action be taken against him. The Congress leadership was in a dilemma. It has no mass base leader in Bengal except Chowdhury. Finally, Mamata Banerjee made up her mind and announced “Ekla Chalo” line. Mamata is not going to budge from her stand, and there is possibility that if she tones down her stand, she may agree to leave two seats for Congress in Bengal. In Punjab, both the state units of AAP and Congress have already decided that they would contest separately and there is no possibility of any seat sharing. The same is the situation in Kerala, where the Left Democratic Front and Congress-led United Democratic Front face each other at the hustings. Possibility of seat sharing in UP is limited with Akhilesh Yadav unwilling to leave more than two seats for Congress. The question now is: where will the opposition contest jointly? One must remember, floating an opposition bloc was Lalu Prasad Yadav’s original idea. It was Lalu Prasad who had convinced Congress and Nitish Kumar to go in for opposition unity, and he had later brought in Sharad Pawar. Lalu kindled the dream of becoming PM in Nitish Kumar’s mind. At the same time, he broached the possibility of Congress regaining its strength across the country. The Congress leadership felt that since it was in a straight contest against BJP in most of the states, allying with small regional parties will prevent division of votes. The Congress leadership thought it could get the added bonus of more seats if it forged an alliance in states like Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, Punjab and Delhi, where regional parties hold sway. The ground realities are different. Leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav, Hemant Soren, Arvind Kejriwal do not want to lend support to Congress in their states and resurrect the party indirectly. This is the reason why clear, major fault lines have now appeared in the opposition bloc. In Bihar, a different ball game altogether is emerging. Lalu Prasad is trying hard to ease Nitish Kumar out from the post of CM to make the path clear for his son Tejashwi Yadav. Nitish Kumar has now realized that he would neither be projected as the PM candidate, nor will he be made the convenor of INDIA alliance. If one goes through the statements made by the Bihar chief minister in the last 24 hours, there are clear indications that he may cross the fence.
On Wednesday, at the birth centenary event of Karpoori Thakur in Samastipur, Bihar, Nitish Kumar not only thanked Narendra Modi and the Centre for bestowing Bharat Ratna honour on the late Socialist leader, but also made indirect attacks on Congress and RJD. Nitish Kumar said, despite being in power at the Centre for ten years, the Congress did not honour Karpoori Thakur with Bharat Ratna. Hitting out at dynastic politics, he said, both he and Karpoori Thakur never promoted their family members in politics – an indirect reference to the Lalu Yadav clan. All eyes are now on Patna with indications that Nitish Kumar may jump the fence and join hands with BJP.
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