Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
Deftly handling the pinpricks from the centre and central bodies on a host of issues, including the Hindi ‘imposition’ from time to time and more important ‘dilution of federalism’, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK supremo MK Stalin has invited many opposition parties for brainstorming on the road ahead for their political future.
Scheduled for Monday, April 3, invites have gone to 14 political parties amid hopes that the hitherto away-from-opposition grouping parties like YSRCP and Biju Janata Dal from Odisha would join the proposed meeting on “Social Justice, the road ahead” from Stalin. Confirmation of participation in the meeting has already come from Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibhu Soren, Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, former Chief Ministers Akhilesh Yadav (UP) and Farooq Abdullah (J&K), among others.
This meeting, mooted by Stalin, could be the first in a series of such congregations amid talks of forging a common front, or at least limiting the 2024 Lok Sabha elections into a straight fight between the stronger of the opposition parties in that region to take on the BJP in a direct fight avoiding splitting of the opposition vote.
This is what was advocated by the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar as well, who felt that the only way to eject the BJP from the centre was to ensure direct fights between regional parties and the BJP ( as it suited the local conditions) and the Congress taking on the BJP in areas where it is strong, thus be on a stronger footing to challenge the incumbent and also take the advantage of the anti-incumbency factor working against the central government, if any.
It is important to note that the meeting convened by Stalin follows the series of ED and CBI actions against several opposition political leaders, who all got together to move the court against the “arbitrary use of the federal agencies against opposition parties. Fourteen opposition parties have moved the court.
TMC MP Derek O’Brien, one of the leaders engaged in getting the opposition folks together, is reportedly of the view that opposition unity was a process that required one step at a time approach. “We are trying to create a larger common platform on important issues. TMC Chief and West Bengal CM, Mamata Banerjee, has urged all Opposition parties to come together to defeat the BJP,” he said.
Among those who are expected to be present at the Chennai meet, either in person, or online in a hybrid mode, is BRS leader K Keshava Rao, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and his CPI counterpart D Raja, and NCP leader Chagan Bhujbal.
The Congress, IUML and MDMK, all allies of the DMK in Tamil Nadu, will also be attending the meeting being held on the important issue. AAP is also likely to depute its Rajya Sabha leader Sanjay Singh to the meeting.
As per the broad contours of the meeting plan, Stalin is likely to set the tone of the meeting with an address and each participant gets 7 minutes to air their views, suggestions, and comments so that everyone got a chance to express their views and stand.
The response of Shiv Sena is yet to be made public, but it is expected to sail along with the opposition. What the observers are curious about now is the stand of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and his party and the YSRCP, both of whom are supporting the Narendra Modi government and stayed away from opposition gatherings so far. It is believed that backroom talks are being held with these two leaders.
What remains to be seen is whether the Chennai meeting is a step forward for the opposition unity as the leadership issue has been the stumbling block so far. What is being stressed is that every constituent of the opposition grouping was an equal partner in the leadership equation and that the leadership was not something of a preserve of one or two parties.
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