While there are many political parties that want to keep the option of doing business with Modi open, the more opposition parties endorse Mamata Banerjee's leadership, the more Congress president Rahul Gandhi's ambition of becoming Prime Minister takes a hit
"The Modi government tends to take the credit for the work done by the state government. The state government is not being allowed to work under this government. The weather changes, everything changes. Then, why can't this Modi government change? Modi government targeting the opposition is simply an act of vendetta. Everyone has to come together. Collective leadership is very important. Modi asks who is going to be our leader. We have several leaders — everybody is a leader; everyone is an organiser in our alliance. We are holding a meeting here, I am sure all the 'agencies' are holding a meeting in Delhi." That was Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in her fiercest avatar, hitting out at Modi government and touching many regional satraps at one go.
Banerjee said a lot of things, but in the end, she emerged as someone the not-so-united opposition seems to have faith in when she talked about 'collective leadership'.
Is it now Mamata vs Rahul?
Banerjee's impressive show of strength will be a cause for concern also for the Congress. After Saturday's rally, Mamata has become a somewhat acceptable face of the opposition. While the Congress has chosen to avoid the leadership question, for now, any leader of the party would endorse Rahul for the coveted post. Mamata's muscle-flexing could put Rahul's ambition in jeopardy. Rahul, during the Karnataka Assembly election last year, had created a storm by suggesting that he is open to becoming the next Prime Minister, probably for the first time hinting at his wish. But with the Congress's ally JD(S) endorsing Banerjee, the road ahead has become tougher for the oldest party of the country.
PM wants us to believe it’s ‘Modi vs all’
It was 2007. Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. In those early years, he was not even imagined to become the prime ministerial candidate of the NDA some day into the future. Sonia Gandhi visited Gujarat and infamously called Modi "Maut ka Saudagar" (merchant of death), in a reference to the 2002 riots. The master orator that Modi is, he turned it to be an “insult to 5.5 crore Gujaratis”. Mrs Gandhi’s utterance backfired. This penchant of Modi to liken him with the people hasn't changed. Even today, he said in Silvassa, "They are not fighting Modi; they (opposition) are fighting the people of this country.” The impression the Prime Minister wants to create: the contest of 2019 is ‘Modi versus the rest’. Ironically, this narrative was once used by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to her benefit.
Many fence-sitters in opposition
There are many political parties that want to keep the option of doing business with Modi open, post-results. Parties like YSR Congress have had meetings with the BJP, which both have denied. But there is photographic evidence to suggest the meeting between a leader of YSRCP and Ram Madhav indeed took place in Delhi. He is keeping his option open in a post-poll scenario. Telangana Rashtra Samithi cannot share a stage with TDP's N Chandrababu Naidu. Moreover, the comfortable body language between KCR and Modi has been a topic of discussion in the state. The BJD is following the same path. It stayed away from today's 'United India' rally. Left has its compulsion of Bengal politics that made it stay away.
Does that mean Saturday's opposition rally holds no significance? Of course, it does in terms of optics. Banerjee has been able to bring quite a number of political parties together, even if the only thread that binds them is anti-Modi-ism. And her rise in stature, or at least the perceived rise, gives the Congress a good reason to worry.
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Last Updated Jan 21, 2019, 9:53 AM IST