Mamata Banerjee rally: 'Remove BJP' campaign gets a boost with Kolkata rally but challenges remain
New Delhi : The "BJP hatao" campaign of opposition parties got a major boost at the Kolkata rally convened by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee but the idea of a "mahagathbandhan (grand alliance)" continues to be a challenge over the absence of a common face to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
The grand event of opposition unity, barely three months before the Lok Sabha polls, had its incongruities. Congress President Rahul Gandhi and BSP chief Mayawati skipped it even as they sent their nominees, apparently not wanting to put any doubt on their own claims to prime ministership in the post-poll scenario.
The event was not attended by the Left parties, Banerjee's rivals in West Bengal, Biju Janata Dal, the Telangana Rasthra Samithi and YSR Congress Party.
Some of the parties which shared the platform will be fighting against each other in the Lok Sabha elections - the Congress against the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi and Congress against the Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party combine in crucial Uttar Pradesh.
There is no clarity yet if the Congress party will ally with Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. The Left will leave no stone unturned to defeat the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. The Congress and Left will battle it out in Kerala.
But as a platform, the Kolkata rally sent important signals that the opposition parties are willing to cooperate and coordinate to the largest extent possible against the Modi government and that they will have no hesitation in forging an alliance in the post-poll scenario to keep the BJP out.
All the issues in the opposition's quiver, including the Rafale deal, demonetisation, "flawed" implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), unemployment, job losses and farm distress, "attack" on institutions, "misuse" of investigative agencies and apprehension over misuse of electronic voting machines (EVMs) were raised at the meeting and virtually spelt out the opposition's narrative in the run-up to the general elections.
The opposition's challenge makes re-election tougher for Modi, who has already started attacking the grand alliance and is pitching the election as a "people versus mahagathbandhan" battle.
The poll arithmetic in terms of alliances such as that between the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh will also make the going tough for the BJP.
A doughty campaigner, Modi is also potraying the opposition parties as greedy for power, pointing out that their only agenda is to remove him and come to power for their "selfish" ends while he is constantly working for welfare of the people.
The Modi government is also making course corrections following election losses in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
The show of unity at Kolkata has augmented the opposition challenge in the Lok Sabha elections and the opposition parties are expected to follow with some more such shows of strength in other parts of the country in the coming weeks.