Thiruvananthapuram: Almost all opposition parties in India consider unseating the BJP from power as their prime task in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Most of them have already declared this openly, barring a few exceptions like the Biju Janta Dal (BJD) in Odisha and Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh. Wouldn’t this mean that the pre-election opposition unity has already reached its saturation point?
Of course, many of these parties would not agree with this simple premise. They still make high-optic efforts to raise the bar of the opposition unity far higher. Sort of a wild goose chase indeed, going by the diverse political composition of the country’s states and Union Territories.
The chase for opposition unity, however, serves the political purpose of leaders like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. They had succeeded in creating an impression that the BJP is vulnerable. The rout of the saffron party in the Karnataka assembly election has imparted an added thrust to this narrative. Still, many of them are not ready to betray their mind on the crucial question if they would be accepting Congress as the natural leader of a united opposition axis.
The highest level to which the opposition unity could be taken is to achieve the feat of having one candidate against the BJP contestant in all LS seats. But this is not going to be the case unless the country is caught in the vortex of a huge political upheaval before the current term of the Narendra Modi government runs out.
In the prevailing scenario, total, or near total, opposition unity is a hypothetical proposition. It could happen only in a post-election situation where the BJP’s tally falls well below the simple majority mark and it finds it hard to get allies to stitch together a hotch-potch arrangement. Even those parties like BJD and YSRCP will then join a likely alliance. Such an arrangement could be more on the lines of the short-lived National Front and United Front, rather than the stable United Progressive Alliance (UPA) which remained in power for a decade.
Now, take a glance at the political dashboard of the country. There are states where the Congress and the BJP are locked in a straight contest. These include Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Goa, and an assortment of Union Territories. No third party matters in these states.
Then, there are states like Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Jharkhand where the Congress is in alliance with powerful regional parties. The opposition unity has already reached the highest point in these states.
Still, there are several states where the goal of fielding a single candidate against the BJP will be pretty hard to achieve. These are Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Delhi, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and the northeastern states.
Would the Congress give up a large chunk of seats in Uttar Pradesh for the sake of opposition unity, leaving the field to battle it out between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the BJP? Or, would the Grand Old Party be ready to settle for a handful of seats in India’s political heartland by joining forces with the SP or BSP in the largest state? Similar is the situation that the Congress faces in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana.
Take the case of Kerala, which has 20 Lok Sabha seats. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPI(M)-led LDF dominate the state. Both firmly affirm that ousting the BJP from power is their immediate target. Would this, however, mean that the Congress and Left are going to strike an alliance in the state? It would be politically suicidal for both, even though the BJP is an insignificant player in Kerala.
All these boil down to the fact that the electoral opposition unity has already been attained where ever it is possible and it will be an exercise in futility to strive to go beyond what has been achieved.