Written by Animesh Kaushik & Isha R. Gopalan
The coming week is going to see an attempt to revive the dying United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and a similar attempt with the ruling party’s coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). From July 17th to 18th, the second opposition meeting after the one that happened in Patna will be taking place at All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Mallikarjun Kharge’s residence in Bengaluru.
Members from a total of 26 opposition parties are invited. Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress and the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), also received a personal request from Kharge to join the meet. The parties are going to discuss the details of a power-sharing formula.
The Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the Ajit Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will attend the NDA meeting on July 18 in Delhi along with the BJP's new Maharashtra allies. It is rumored that the Shiromani Akali Dal and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) will rejoin the NDA. To broaden the caste base of the NDA, additional parties are being brought in, including the Chirag Paswan faction of the Lok Janshakti Party, the Janata Dal (Secular) of Karnataka, the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) of Uttar Pradesh, the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) of Bihar, and the Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM).
For the opposition meet that was hosted by Nitish Kumar in Patna, 18 opposition parties were invited, but only 17 showed up. As per a report in The Hindu, the chief of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Jayant Chaudhary, decided not to attend the meeting, citing a family program, but he mentioned that he hoped the meeting would be an important milestone in the path of opposition unity. RLD has been an ally of the Samajwadi Party (SP) in UP since 2017 when they joined hands to fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The RLD state chief, Ramashish Rai, admitted during a media interview that SP occasionally used to send mixed signals, particularly during the distribution of tickets, whether it be for the 2022 Assembly elections or the recently held urban local body elections. However, there has been a lot of bad blood in recent times. Thus, there is a lot of buzz that Jayant Chaudhary is looking for new allies in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), where they have also attracted offers from U.P. BJP chief Bhupendra Chaudhary to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
With regard to the upcoming opposition meeting, Congress general secretary KC Venugopal seemed confident about the presence of leaders belonging to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In an interview with Press Trust of India, he said that “I think they (AAP) are going to join the meeting tomorrow. As for the ordinance on Delhi government’s powers, our stand is very clear. We are not going to support it”.
Hence, After weeks of rumors, Congress stated on Sunday that it opposes the Centre's ordinance relating to the control of services in Delhi, a day before the scheduled meeting of opposition parties in Bengaluru. This announcement also saw optimistic responses from members of the AAP, such as a tweet by AAP Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha, which said, “Congress announces its unequivocal opposition to the Delhi Ordinance. This is a positive development.”
According to Republic World, Mamata Banerjee was reluctant to join the opposition meet in Bangalore amidst the violence in West Bengal with the Panchayat elections. She had cited her hand injury as the reason for not attending, but Sonia Gandhi convinced her through a phone call on Friday, July 14th, to attend the meeting. As per One India, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana are going to have state elections before the end of the year. A preview of the battle might be seen in these states as a result of the probable coalitions.
As per Telangana Today, Telangana CM K. Chandrashekhar Rao from Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) has not been invited to the opposition meet, about which Asaddudin Owaisi, the president of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), expressed disappointment, stating that the Telangana CM is not just an ordinary person but a major player in politics.
He also mentioned how the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a diversionary tactic employed by the BJP to divert attention from important issues such as Poverty and unemployment. His comparison of the current election to the previous one was made when he said, "It is no mere coincidence that it has been almost exactly 5 years since the last exercise was undertaken by the Law Commission to examine the subject of a Uniform Civil Code. Like clockwork, every time general elections are a few months away, the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party rakes up the issue of UCC and tries to vitiate the atmosphere and polarize the electorate in the run-up to the elections.”
He added that, according to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, out of the country's existing 2,500 political parties, only 20 of them have control over various states. The Bahujan Samaj Party, the governing BRS of Telangana, the Biju Janata Dal of Odisha, the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) of Andhra Pradesh, and numerous other parties with vote banks and spheres of influence are not on either side. Arif Mohammed Khan, the governor of Kerala, was also criticized for his comments regarding the UCC. Owaisi argued that, in his capacity as governor, he should not be praising the administration. He ought to resign from his position as governor and formally join the BJP. “If the Congress is not clear about UCC, it is giving a good message to the country that it is not clear," he said, addressing the Congress. “It is giving a good message to the tribals that it is not clear and that it itself is in confusion,” he added.
The Congress, however, seems to accept parts of the UCC, for example, the equality of inheritance and gender parity but condemn others, such as the imposition of uniformity. As per The Indian Express, Senior leaders of Congress such as P Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid, and Abhishek Singhvi had a meeting with the Party leaders of the North Eastern States on July 15th, Saturday, in Delhi. When asked how the Congress will take a nuanced position, one leader said, “We can support certain provisions... but on the whole, we will oppose any attempt to impose uniformity as it is against our plural values and the idea of diversity.”
According to ABP Live, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had earlier slammed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) by saying that it is only being pushed to avoid discussion about demonetization and the withdrawal of 2000 rupee notes from circulation. Additionally, he said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration's desperation to continue its polarization agenda and distract attention from its failures is evident in the Law Commission's most recent attempt to solicit new public opinion on UCC.
The opposition camp is already split on the subject, with AAP and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) both supporting the idea in principle, even though the center has not yet indicated when it will introduce a bill on UCC. The BSP has also stated that it is not going against UCC but that it disagrees with the “way the BJP is trying to implement it.”
With such an intricate web of values, demands, and power, how the meet will turn out is totally unpredictable. How the parties come up with a seat-sharing agreement is still in question, as various parties are going to be demanding power, whether in their respective states or the center. However, that will only be possible if this opposition meeting leads to the toppling of the current government in the national elections next year.