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Regional biggies in talks for floating national Opposition platform

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New Delhi: Top leaders of several regional parties have begun talks on forming a national opposition platform for political and electoral mobilisation against the Centre and the BJP with an eye on the next general elections, it is learnt. The move comes even as the Congress leadership vacillates and struggles to put its own house in order since the 2019 Lok Sabha rout.

Potential partners have over many weeks held consultations on the proposal on bringing together a number of regional parties facing political, electoral and administrative aggression of the BJP and the Centre. The regional parties, which include many who run state governments, also share a grouse that the Centre is ‘anti-federal’. Some of the parties have proposed a joint meeting of the leaders in the near future, sources said.

Among those involved or approached include Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, K Chandrashekhar Rao-led TRS, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar-led NCP, Navin Patnaik-led BJD, Akhilesh Yadav-led SP, Badal-led SAD, Gowda-led JDS and other like-minded regional outfits, sources said. Some involved in the discussions have suggested NCP chief Sharad Pawar could coordinate the efforts given his personal rapport with many regional leaders. The plan is reminiscent of the National Front and United Front experiments, which had relegated then weakened second national party, the BJP in late ‘80s, and Congress in mid ‘90s, while projecting the alliance of regional parties as the main national challenger to the ruling dispensations.

“The plan is reminiscent of the National Front and United Front experiments, which had relegated then weakened second national party, BJP in late ‘80s, and Congress in mid ‘90s”

— Oppn’s Big Plan

Sources said broadly four factors were behind this attempt: The unprecedented decline of the Congress, the Gandhi family’s fading brand value as ‘unifier’ of the party and its inability to be an effective Opposition pivot to resist and fight against the multiple challenges being posed by the Modi government. “There is only a notional UPA now with most Opposition parties actually fighting the BJP and the Centre out of it. The Congress is in disarray and is functioning without even a proper leadership for one-and-half years now. How can the Congress and the Gandhis make main regional parties rally behind them? It has to be the other way around,” contended a regional leader involved in the exercise.

Secondly, as AICC under Sonia Gandhi’s interim president is working to re-elect Rahul Gandhi as party chief, many regional leaders feel they are not obliged to accept him (or Priyanka Gandhi for that matter) as the face of future anti-BJP national formation. Though the pro-changers Congress leaders had stressed in their joint letter the need for the Congress leadership to take the initiative to bring back on one platform all ex-Congress persons, no such attempt has been made by the party leadership.

Thirdly, most regional biggies are now conscious of the fact that in more and more states, the next LS electoral poll would be fought between BJP and the regional challenger, with Congress relegated to at least third position. Fourthly, the way BJP cut many NDA allies to size and the fact the saffron party almost stormed the turfs of the usually ‘neutral’ TRS and BJD also drove home the point that none is spared in the BJP’s expansionist drive and thus the urge to join hands. Many of them want the proposed platform to showcase a coordinated resistance against BJP/Centre right away than waiting till 2024.

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