By Elton Gomes
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah hinted that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could be the prime ministerial candidate of the anti-BJP front in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Abdullah met CM Banerjee at Nabanna, the West Bengal Secretariat, and said that “we will take Mamata to the national capital so that she can replicate the work that she did in Kolkata for the entire country”, Zee News reported.
The two leaders spoke to the media after the meeting, and they dropped hints at a possible coalition to oust the BJP in 2019. When asked whether a coalition was on the cards, Abdullah said that no discussion can be complete without talking about the “prevailing situation of fear in the country”.
“If you talk about a true federal front, it is made up of parties with no differences. All we have to do is agree to cooperate with each other. I represent a very small party and I can say after speaking to Mamata that we should be able to defeat the BJP,” Abdullah said, as reported by the Free Press Journal.
When Abdullah was asked whether the Congress was included in any coalition plans, he said that efforts were being made to include all parties in the anti-BJP front. However, Banerjee seemed to be giving regional players the upper hand when she gave Congress the cold shoulder in March. Banerjee’s party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) also disapproved of Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate.
The opposition seems to have taken several steps to strategise the Modi government’s defeat. Here’s taking a look at how the opposition’s candidates stand.
TMC leader and Rajya Sabha member, Derek O’Brien said that Banerjee’s name for the post of prime minister is “nothing new.” O’Brien claimed that Banerjee is “accepted” not only by people in West Bengal but also the entire country for 40 years of her political work, including Member of Parliament and as chief minister.
Banerjee seems like a formidable opponent to PM Narendra Modi. Her anti-BJP front could be a welcome change from the BJP-Congress dichotomy. The fact that Banerjee managed to gather candidates from regional parties and float a party of her own seems credible enough. Additionally, sources in the Congress have said that the party will back any candidate who is not supported by the Sangh Parivar or the BJP. The Rahul Gandhi-led party is ready to support Banerjee or Mayawati as Prime Minister for the polls. Although this underscores the Congress’ need to enter alliances, it is likely to better Banerjee’s intentions to become the prime minister.
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has bounced back superbly in 2018. Her pan-India presence has worked in her favour, and almost every party is prepared to enter into a pre-poll alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Dalits and minorities have faced numerous atrocities under the Modi government, and Mayawati could take up such issues. Dalits in India could see some changes if Mayawati makes history and becomes the first Dalit prime minister of India. To add to Mayawati’s credibility, not one major incident of communal violence broke out during her four terms as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. She has been known to give fair representation to minorities in her government and the party and is considered to be a strict administrator.
Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has said that Rahul Gandhi is the “number one key contender for the PM’s post.” If Gandhi is fielded for prime minister, he’ll become the only candidate to not hold a chief ministerial position. Perhaps Gandhi’s inexperience could prove to be his Achilles heel, but he seems to have taken note of the several uprisings during the Modi government.
Gandhi seems to have renewed his image by tapping into people’s anxiety. The Congress president launched the Jan Aakrosh Rally and Save the Constitution campaign. Both of these were attempts to protect weaker sections, Dalits, and women.
Furthermore, Gandhi does not seem afraid to take risks in Indian politics. Gandhi hugging Modi certainly raised eyebrows, but it also set the stage for a renewed leadership.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius