Opposition parties are eyeing anti-BJP alliance, but first they must find unity

By Prarthana Mitra

Inspired by the victory of the regional opposition in the recent byelection— with the Samajwadi Party (SP) winning all three Lok Sabha seats in UP and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) an assembly seat and a Lok Sabha seat in Bihar—the Congress appears even more determined to forge a broader opposition front in the run up to the 2019 general elections.

Attempt to revive UPA alliance

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday hailed Kanshi Ram, the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party, as a great social reformer on the occasion of his birth anniversary, adding, “His untiring efforts to bring the oppressed social groups in the mainstream had left an indelible remark on Indian polity”. Gandhi has also been also seen deliberating at the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) camp after the bypoll results were declared.


Rahul’s meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar came on the back of Sonia Gandhi hosting a dinner for the leaders of 17 regional opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress, the CPI(M), the DMK and the Janata Dal Secular, besides the BSP, SP, RJD and NCP. Although many senior leaders from these parties attended the dinner,  West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, BSP supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav were absent. The meeting is thought to have been a platform to bring the parties together to discuss joining forces against the BJP in 2019.

Sowing seeds for a “regional” Third Front

Despite her absence from the recent dinner, Banerjee is expected to attend a dinner hosted by Pawar on March 28. Although the Congress is trying to forge a larger opposition alliance, perhaps a UPA III, Banerjee has reportedly been in talks with regional players such as Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, DMK chief Stalin and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for a possible Third Front, sans the Congress.

Opposition must choose sides wisely

The possibility of an alternative Third Front without the BJP’s primary opposition has been in the offing for quite some time. The Congress competed in the recent UP bypolls alone after “its overtures for an alliance” was rejected by the SP, who received backing from the BSP instead. But Rahul’s appraisal of the BSP founder suggests the possibility of a renewed attempt to reach out to lost allies.

As two different sets of alternative fronts loom large in the coalition-scape of India, the question is if the opposition parties gear up for a face-off among themselves, will the BJP capitalise on this divide? At the same time, a revival of the UPA demands some compromise from parties that deserted the alliance in the past, and the Congress, which has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.