Joint & split fight to take on BJP
New Delhi: Undaunted by the ridicule being heaped on efforts to cobble up a coalition against the election-winning machine of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine, the Opposition is working on a strategy that sounds contradictory but points to a method in the seeming madness.
In states where the BJP is a force to reckon with, Opposition parties plan to join hands against it and prevent it from benefiting from a split in anti-BJP votes.
But in states where the BJP's presence is negligible, the plan is for the various parties within the Opposition to fight each other in the Lok Sabha elections in a bid to deny the BJP any space in local politics, Janata Dal Secular national secretary-general Danish Ali said in New Delhi on Saturday.
Interacting with journalists at the Indian Women's Press Corps, Ali - who was in the thick of stitching up the JDS-Congress post-poll alliance in Karnataka - was clear that there was no wishing away coalitions from India.
He rejected the idea that stability means having one man in office for five years. "The country remains strong when its institutions are strong. Right now, all institutions are under threat."
Ali also sought to dispel the notion that Opposition unity was being driven by fear of political extinction.
"It is not a question of political survival of parties. The question is will democracy itself survive in this country?" he asked, adding that the BJP with 31 per cent of the vote share had been peddling the idea of an "Opposition-free India".
"We represent 69 per cent of the votes, and they want to wipe us out." Ali said.
On the question of who would be the Opposition's prime ministerial face, the JDS leader said: "India has a parliamentary system of government. We are not the US. This kind of one-man rule is what is demolishing democracy in this country now. There is no inner-party democracy in the BJP also."
Who will be Prime Minister will be decided post-poll just as the way it was done in 1989, 1996 and 2004, Ali added, underscoring that there was nothing wrong in different parties projecting their own leaders as the potential leader of the coalition.
"Every party has the right to project its own leader. Once the elections are over, parties opposed to the BJP will evolve a consensus on the leader and the programme," Ali said.
He also sought to counter the BJP's bid to project Opposition unity as a "gang-up" akin to the one against Indira Gandhi in 1971.
"This will not be a 1971 election; this will be a 1977 election," Ali said in an oblique effort to draw a parallel between the present situation and what prevailed during the Emergency.
On the Karnataka coalition and the Congress president leaving for the US midway between negotiations between the two parties, Ali maintained that Rahul Gandhi had been in constant touch, monitoring the situation over phone.
"In some of our meetings, he used to speak to us from the US through speaker phone."