Opposition sees alliance silver lining

Senior Congress leaders (from left) P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Randeep Singh Surjewala address a news conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: Surprised - and even a bit shocked - by the BJP emerging the single-largest party in Karnataka, the Opposition sees a silver lining in the results, clutching on to the straw of hope that the Congress would have finally learnt a lesson and would become more accommodative towards smaller parties.

When it comes to doing business with the smaller parties, the Congress is perceived to be a worse performer than the BJP though two of the ruling party's allies - the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal - have of late complained about the "big brother" attitude of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duopoly that has pushed the TDP out of the NDA fold.

Although not all Opposition parties are on board Bengal chief minister and Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee's efforts to form a federal front, many of them privately agree with her tweet on Tuesday when early leads put the BJP way ahead of the rest.

Congratulating the "winners" of the Karnataka elections, Mamata had tweeted: "For those who lost, fight back. If Congress had gone into an alliance with the JD(S), the result would have been different. Very different."

That the Congress still behaves like a ruling party is a common refrain in the Opposition camp, which finds that the Grand Old Party, despite all its lip service to Opposition unity, drives a hard bargain when it comes to seat-sharing arrangements.

Rebel JDU leader Sharad Yadav, who gave unconditional support to the Congress in Karnataka despite wanting a couple of seats for his people, found the bigger party accommodating only one of his nominees.

And, the Congress did not reach out to him or other Opposition leaders from the socialist stock to campaign in Karnataka.

Although the TDP has not been part of the Congress-led Opposition meetings, party insiders have been claiming since Tuesday to have contributed to preventing the BJP from reaching the halfway mark.

Of the 46 constituencies where there are more than 50,000 Telugu voters in each, 32 were won by the Congress, nine by the Janata Dal Secular and five by the BJP, TDP insiders said in a bid to underscore the role of their party in propping up the national Opposition.

While a Congress-TDP understanding in Andhra Pradesh is difficult as the two are in a direct contest, there is already talk of the two parties joining hands in neighbouring Telangana to weaken the TRS.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Opposition parties are relieved that the Congress has decided not to field a candidate for the Kairana Lok Sabha by-election.

"Fact is the Congress can still get about 10,000 to 12,000 votes wherever they contest in Uttar Pradesh and that sometimes can be the margin of victory. So it is good the Congress has not repeated what it did in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur by-elections," Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP Javed Ali Khan told The Telegraph.

The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party had come together against the BJP in the two seats earlier this year, but the Congress had fielded its own candidates.

The Congress, Khan added, needs to change its big brother attitude towards the regional parties which alienates them.

On how the Uttar Pradesh electoral field will play out for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Khan was confident that the Samajwadi-BSP alliance would hold as Mayawati is committed to it.

As far as seat-sharing is concerned, Samajwadi leaders maintained that nothing had been worked out but pointed to the neat arrangement provided by the voters in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

"We won five seats and came second in 31, so the people's verdict for the Samajwadi Party was 36 seats. Similarly, the BSP came second in 34. The Congress won two and came second in six, so it can contest eight. If we win Kairana, then the RLD can hold on to that seat and also be given the one where the AAP came second," Khan said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi will on Thursday visit Chhattisgarh, where elections are due this year-end.

The Samajwadi Party has already asked its workers to organise themselves in Madhya Pradesh for the upcoming polls.

"We have won eight seats there in past elections and the BSP has bagged as many as 11. So the Congress should consider accommodating the two parties in Madhya Pradesh," Khan said.


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