The older you get the stronger the wind gets – and it’s always in your face.
- Pablo Picasso
The upcoming seven-phase Lok Sabha elections are set to witness a key contest for power between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress with a host of regional parties throwing their hat in the ring. The main poll plank of the BJP is that it can provide strong and stable leadership as opposed to a chaotic “grand alliance” of the Opposition. Alliances are being firmed up by both the Congress and the BJP. This indicates that neither the Congress nor the BJP is sure about securing absolute majority on its own this time. So, they have to depend on allies. BJP seems to be moving ahead of Congress in stitching alliance at national level. Significantly, it is attempting to even widen this alliance, repair bridges with sulking partners, so that in case of a complicated post-poll scenario it can take help of those forces to retain power. First, it worked out coalition arithmetic with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra to take on a combined Congress-Nationalist Congress Party challenge. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party, interestingly, was one of the most critical voices till the recent past. This was followed by a pre-poll alliance with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu. In Bihar it has become inevitable for the BJP to further strength existing alliance with chief minister Nitish Kumar. The BJP, therefore, sacrificed five of its sitting Lok Sabha MPs to finalize its alliance with Janata Dal (United). This week only the saffron party stitched a fresh alliance with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which had left the coalition over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).
In contrast Congress is going slow in formalizing its alliance known in popular parlance as ‘Mahagathbandhan’. There is no desperation, which is evident in BJP. There is no denying that the task before the Opposition (read Congress) today is to ensure that Mahagathbandhan works, it is all serious about pose a real challenge to BJP and its allies. For example, though Congress and RJD are coalition partners since many years but still they have not been able to resolve the seat sharing arrangement. No one from 20-odd parties which recently attended a rally in Kolkata other than Congress is seen making some concerted efforts to give a shape to this proposed ‘Mahagathbandhan’. It was though that the Opposition jointly would pose a real challenge for BJP this time. But time is running out for them to stitch an alliance.
The announcement of Lok Sabha poll schedules will add impetus to the negotiations the Congress is holding with allies in seven to nine states to give final shape to the opposition front. One thing is absolutely explicit that the 2019 election is going to be battle between two mahagathbandhans.