Pivot of Opposition Unity

Sharad Pawar’s observation that opposition parties know their strength and also where to avoid cross-connections and cutting into each other’s vote makes him axle of opposition

By Anil Anand

It has never been too easy to predict an opposition unity and it is more difficult this time around as the opposition parties are running on quest to forge a front against Narendra Modi led BJP for 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The key question still being debated by the anti-BJP political parties is whether it would be a Congress led combine or a “Federal Front” as a clarion call has already been given for this by leaders such as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and even BSP supremo Mayawati.

This is one aspect of the ongoing talk of opposition unity. If Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar also happens to be in the midst of this talk for “unity” there would be no dearth of surprises and theories abound would keep making headlines. The 77-year old warhorse is unpredictable and mercurial, in some sense of the term, both but also has the knack of projecting himself as a cool cucumber who can spend hours rather days together planning moves on the political chess board.

So, that makes the talk of opposition unity more complicated if not difficult at least it seems so at this juncture. From Mamta to Pawar to Sharad Yadav to Chandra Babu Naidu (TDP) none is too happy with the Modi dispensation which has lost sheen primarily due to utter sense of arrogance of Modi-Amit Shah duo. Naidu quitting BJP-led NDA and Pawar after his enigmatic brief courtship with Modi finally parting ways are the glaring instances of Modi’s sense of lack of accommodating which incidentally was the hallmark of his predecessor and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajapyee.

But unpredictable Pawar slamming doors, don’t be surprised if he opens the window again, on Modi is not a clinching indication of his real intent. One thing is clear that with hardcore communal stance of the BJP Pawar has limited options of making a common cause with Modi.

But then how would one fathom his shifting of stance within a span of 20 days on the very definition of the opposition unity?

He was emphatic about opposition unity in his observation made on June 5 last and even expressed his willingness to play a key role in cementing opposition unity at the national level to counter the BJP. Who would disbelief Pawar when he stressed on the need to understand public sentiment and opposition parties coming together to expose Modi Government. Ostensibly, buoyed by the recent positive results in 10 Lok Sabha bi-elections in favour of the opposition, he expressed his willingness to work for opposition unity.

 “Those who are against the BJP and believe in democracy and equal rights should seriously consider coming together. I would be glad to join the process of bringing the Opposition leaders together on one platform,” Pawar said. This was an ample indication on his part that this is the best time for the Opposition to unite against the BJP.

Come June 25 and same Pawar, true to his image, had a divine enlightenment which came at the cost of a major shift from his views expressed barely 20 days back. The Pawar watchers were certainly not surprised but it might have come as an utter shock for others who tended to believe each word he spoke on June 5. With the same confidence which he had expressed earlier about opposition unity, he junked and debunked the same idea with gusto. The idea of opposition unity is “not practical”, he affirmed and adding that a post poll alliance is more likely.

Almost ruling the pre-poll alliance at the national levels, he said that this could be devised at best at some state levels. Justifying his u-turn, Pawar said the idea of pre-poll alliance at national levels was not practical on account of regional compulsions of some political parties. “There is a lot of media speculation, a lot of write-ups about some alternative front like a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (Grand Alliance). But, I don’t see anything like that. I don’t see that possibility. Some of our friends want that, but it’s not practical,” the wily Maratha politician said.

He further explained his about turn, “Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh and K Chandrashekhar Rao’s party in Telangana will be important factors, while (Naveen) Patnaik in Odisha and Mamata Banerjee in Bengal will be important. They will consolidate their position in respective states not as a ‘Gathbandhan’.” However, he did not focus on why had he on first instance offered to work for a pre-poll opposition unity.

Does that mean Pawar fronting himself as the Prime Ministerial candidate as while changing his stance he seemed to be discounting Congress and more so its president Rahul Gandhi. This was evident from the fact that he did on occasions after his change of political thought regarding opposition unity did praise Gandhi. Interestingly, he has declined to comment on the possibility of Congress president becoming Prime Minister as a common candidate of the opposition.

 “I can’t say that. Can’t say anything about any individual… Ultimately, their acceptability is important,” he observed and in turn added more to the confusion.

His changing stance and recent observation that the opposition parties know their strength and also where to avoid cross-connections through eradicating chances of cutting into each other to ultimately benefit BJP, could also be viewed on an optimistic note. The issue of opposition unity has been made complicated by erstwhile NDA allies and supporting parties such as TDP and Orissa’s Biju Janata Dal, joining the opposition ranks. These parties not only want to protect their own turf but would also like to keep a safe distance from Congress at least till the poll results are declared.

Well, the man to be watched would certainly be Pawar the proverbial Prime Minister in waiting. Or will he change just another track and not only help opposition unity and its subsequent victory at the hustings but also ensure that he made space for younger generation.