Rajat Sharma


akbThe INDIA alliance of opposition parties staged a ‘Save Democracy’ protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Friday protesting mass suspension of 146 MPs. It was attended by Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and other opposition leaders. It was a show of opposition unity. But in Patna, Lucknow and Mumbai, there are already rumblings in the opposition bloc over the choice of PM candidate and sharing of seats.


Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had a brief 30-minute meeting on Friday with his deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, and soon after JD-U ‘bahubali’ leader Gopal Mandal, said to be close to Nitish, publicly opposed projection of Kharge as PM candidate. Mandal said, “The common public do not know who Kharge is….Nitish Kumar acted as ‘Fevicol’ in bringing together all opposition leaders on a single platform, his face is known to all, he should be projected as PM, otherwise public will not accept any other name. Entire India knows who is Nitish Kumar. Our chief minister is the undisputed leader. It is Lalu’s mission to make him PM. We will uproot BJP.” Another JD-U leader Sanjay Jha said, “Nitish Kumar will be the best choice. .. It was he who brought all parties together, he should be made the convenor. But the name of PM will be decided only after elections. Presently, the top priority is seat sharing.” RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said the discussion with his CM was over seat sharing in the alliance. “The sooner the decision is taken, the better. Our main aim is to defeat Modi, other matters are secondary”, Tejashwi Yadav said. It is true that the floating of Kharge’s name as PM candidate by Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal has made Nitish Kumar unhappy and Lalu Prasad Yadav is worried. Seat sharing in Bihar can face problems because JD-U is demanding 20 and RJD wants 18 seats. Congress wants 10 seats, and Left parties want to contest 5 seats. But Bihar has only 40 Lok Sabha seats. Lalu Yadav is unwilling to concede more seats to JD-U compared to his own party’s seats. Out of a total of 40 LS seats, if JD-U corners 20 and RJD 18, only two seats will be left for Congress and Left. The issue is really complicated. Lalu wants Nitish Kumar to shift to the Centre and vacate his chief minister seat for his son Tejashwi. He wants this to be done before the Lok Sabha elections. This led to intense speculations in Patna when Nitish called Tejashwi for a meeting. Already, BJP Union Minister Giriraj Singh has claimed that Lalu had told him on a flight that ‘conditions in Bihar will not improve unless Tejashwi is brought (as CM)’. Already, Rahul Gandhi has been pestering Nitish Kumar to induct two Congress ministers in his government. In Bihar politics, nothing remains a secret. Nitish Kumar knows that his innings in Bihar is now over, and he is biding his time. Several months ago, he was full of energy and had visited several state capitals to meet opposition chief ministers in order to bring anti-Modi opposition parties together. Nitish wanted to become the leader of a united opposition. But his plans ran aground when Congress sidelined him to make way for Rahul Gandhi, and Mamata Banerjee queered the pitch by floating Kharge’s name. On the other hand, it is Lalu Yadav’s strong ambition to realize his dream to see his son Tejashwi become the chief minister. For this, it is necessary that Nitish Kumar leaves Bihar, but as of now, Nitish’s fate hangs in balance. He is neither here, nor there. And the JD-U leaders are openly demanding projection of Nitish Kumar as PM candidate.


There is tussle in Maharashtra too. Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) has clearly said that it will contest 23 out of a total of 48 seats, and out of the remaining 25 seats, Congress and NCP will have to divide among themselves. Uddhav’s close aide Sanjay Raut said, his party had been contesting these 23 LS seats since the beginning. Raut said, he had met Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday, and that Uddhav and Aditya Thackeray had already spoken to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. He was emphatic on Shiv Sena contesting 23 seats and also added that all talks over seat sharing will be held with the central Congress leadership, and not with the state unit. Maharashtra Congress working president Naseem Khan said, it is not proper to speak about number of seats so soon. “Seats should be distributed on the basis of winnability and all parties should support each other”, he said. NCP leader Vidya Chavan said, number of seats should not be made an issue of prestige, and the main aim should be to defeat BJP and Modi. Sanjay Raut is correct when he says that Shiv Sena had been contesting 23 LS seats in Maharashtra since the beginning. Shiv Sena was part of NDA and it had contested 23 seats in 2014 and 2019 elections. In 2019, it won 18 out of 23 seats it contested, while Congress had contested 25 and NCP had contested 19 seats at that time. Both Shiv Sena and NCP are now split. Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP are in NDA now. Congress feels it is in a stronger position now and has more bargaining power, but Uddhav and Sharad Pawar are trying to put more pressure on Congress. It seems difficult how Congress will adjust itself to such pressures.


In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party, the dominant party in INDIA alliance, is unwilling to concede more seats to Congress. Reports say, Akhilesh Yadav’s party wants to contest 76 out of a total of 80 seats in UP. This leaves four seats – two for RLD in western UP, and two, (Amethi and Rae Bareli) for Congress. To counter this, Congress leaders in UP have started saying that Mayawati’s BSP should be included in the alliance. Their argument is that without BSP support, it will be difficult to give a tough fight to the BJP in UP. People have already seen the fate of SP-Congress alliance during assembly elections. UP Congress chief Ajay Rai said, the issue of inducting BSP into the alliance was discussed at the Delhi INDIA meet, but SP leader Ramgopal Yadav opposed it. He said, if Mayawati is taken into the alliance, Samajwadi Party will walk out of the opposition bloc. On Friday, Akhilesh’s uncle Shivpal Yadav said, Mayawati is helping BJP secretly, she should first stop doing this and then talks can take place. Samajwadi Party is opposing Mayawati, but in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Akhilesh Yadav’s and Mayawati’s parties had contested polls jointly. That alliance helped Mayawati but caused big damage to Samajwadi Party. This is the reason why Akhilesh does not want to ally with Mayawati now. Secondly, Congress leaders feel that Samajwadi Party cannot transfer its votes to Congress during elections, but BSP’s traditional votes can be transferred to Congress if Mayawati joins the bloc. If SP refuses to leave more seats for Congress in UP, and Congress sticks to its stand, a situation to that of MP assembly elections can arise. Already, there are tussles between INDIA bloc parties for seats in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Delhi and Punjab, the joint opposition protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi notwithstanding.


Two issues emerged from Friday’s Jantar Mantar protest. One, mass suspension of opposition MPs. Why did it take place? Let me disclose. When Parliament shifted from its old Lutyens era building to the new complex, leaders of all political parties had promised Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman that they would surely maintain decorum in the new building. These leaders had then said that what happened for the last 75 years in the old building will not be repeated in the new complex. They had promised not to enter the well of the House and stage protest by holding placards inside the House. All parties agreed that if members had any grievances, they could stand near their seat and protest. All the parties had agreed that if members violated decorum, action will be taken against the members. If members themselves deliberately go back on their commitments, then what is the use of holding all-party meetings? Two, the issue relating to breach of Parliament security. It is a fact that there was a major breach in security and any big untoward incident could have taken place. It was the responsibility of the government to ensure security. But can one link this security breach issue with the issue of unemployment? Let me give one example. The youth who jumped into the Lok Sabha was a Class 12 pass out. His mother said, he did not want to do jobs, he drove an e-rickshaw. How can this be an unemployment issue, like Rahul Gandhi said at the Jantar Mantar protest? Fresh inputs that have come in course of police probe indicate that the group of youths who breached security, wanted to float a political party. They told investigators that they never expected that UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) will be slapped against them. They had hoped to get bail within 4-6 months after jumping inside the House, and come out as ‘heroes’. They were sold dreams of becoming a leader after committing this act. Hope, somebody should tell Rahul Gandhi that these youths are not those, whose jobs have been snatched away. They had intruded into Parliament in search of work in the world of politics. And, in this process, they committed a serious crime.

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