“Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.”
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP Chief Chandrababu Naidu met Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday and discussed the way forward for a united opposition. The leaders announced an alliance between the two parties against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).The coming together of the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party is not on account of any new-found affinity, but because of the cessation of an old rivalry. With the Congress no longer posing a threat to the TDP in Andhra Pradesh, and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi emerging as the principal rival of the Congress in Telangana, the Congress and the TDP are not competitors for power in either of the two States. The coalition-building exercise of A.P. Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu comes after the failed attempt of the TRS to forge a national ‘federal’ front of regional parties in opposition to both the BJP and the Congress. Naidu held talks with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and National Conference (NC) Chairperson Farooq Abdulla in his efforts to expedite the process of bringing together important opposition parties ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Over the last weekend, he held similar parleys with Delhi Chief Minister and national convenor of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Arvind Kejriwal and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, among others.
There is no doubt that the surging winds of Hindutva are sending regional parties into a search for new partners. The meeting between Naidu and Rahul Gandhi was on the expected line as the alliance struck for Telengana, where both had come a cropper, logically needed to be extended to the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh where the ruling Telugu Desam can no longer bank on the regional idiom of Telugu self-respect. “We are coming together… both agreed are not going to get into the past and will talk about the present and the future… It is critical for the country that all opposition parties get together and provide a vision to the country,” said Gandhi on his coming together with a Naidu, boss of the Telugu Desam Party, the Congress’ traditional rival in Andhra Pradesh and a BJP ally till March this year. Both underlined that the primary objective was to defeat the BJP. And they skirted the question on who would lead such an anti-BJP front, though Naidu pointed out that Congress is the main opposition party. In the changed scenario, for TDP the BJP is the new political target, and the Congress suddenly is a friend.
If the opposition leaders are serious about taking on the BJP in the next Lok Sabha election, some of them will have to work full-time on this proposition as piecemeal measures would be of no match to the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and dedication of BJP President Amit Shah in successfully connecting the dots. With the kind of time that Rahul Gandhi has, he can do this but then, the opposition leaders need to publicly express their confidence in him. Naidu’s meeting with the Congress president on Thursday can be the first steps towards that direction.