REFUSING to come out of their own paradise, Opposition parties have reportedly begun sensing early signs of rivalry among leaders for the top spot when the nation goes to polls in 2024. Amid a thickening impression that popularity of Narendra Modi is on the wane, a silent yearning appears to have started taking grip on a few leaders who see themselves as the Opposition’s prime ministerial face. With passage of time, this silent undercurrent may assume elements of mutual hostility among leaders of different political parties in the Opposition camp, and that may affect the collective electoral narrative rather negatively, ‘The Hitavada’ has learned. Political observers believe that the picture in the Opposition camp is no longer the same as was in evidence soon after the landslide victory of Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the recent West Bengal legislative elections.
In the immediate aftermath of the victory, Mamata Banerjee was figuring in the thought-process as the Opposition’s sole prime ministerial candidate. However, in the succeeding weeks, the picture started assuming different colours as some elements in the Congress party reportedly started pushing Rahul Gandhi to hold on to his natural claim as prime ministerial candidate, mainly thanks to the fact that he is the leader of the country’s largest Opposition party. One of the main reasons for massive surge of voting in favour of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal elections was that the Congress and the Left parties -- who formed a strange bedfellowship during the campaign then -- had reportedly turned their respective (so-called) votebanks over to the TMC only with the thought of out-voting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the hustings. This theory had got bolstered by the subsequent terrible electoral performance of the Congress party in particular.
That abominable showing was only because the Congress chose to support the TMC even at its own cost, many political observers believe. However, recent beneath-the-surface political developments now point to a different picture. Some Congress leaders have started stressing that since it was Congress party’s help that pushed Mamata Banerjee to the top position in the electoral battle, Rahul Gandhi should now claim his pound of flesh, and not give up his stake for the candidacy as prime ministerial face of the joint front of the Opposition parties. The Left parties are reportedly not averse to this position since they, too, have a seminal dislike for Mamata Banerjee (who had unseated them ten years ago in West Bengal).
They are reportedly supporting the move to push Rahul Gandhi’s candidature as Opposition’s prime mnisterial face, ‘The Hitavada’ has learned. Owing to the pressure that is being built against her following untold post-poll violence in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee is reported to be seeking a greater support from the Congress party in particular. However, a few of her approaches met with cold shoulder in the Congress camp -- in the process prompting an impression that the effort to cobble a united Opposition front may start getting jolts right from now. During the 2019 general elections, a similar picture was available in the Opposition camp. Most leaders -- that included Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu and Sharad Pawar -- started pushing their respective claims to the top spot, ultimately harming the very purpose of the joint front.
Political observers suspect that the 2024 clash, too, would produce a similar outcome. They also believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity is far from waning. “On the contrary, it has improved tremendously over the past some time, thanks to the way he handled the COVID-19 crisis”, said a observer. Such observations, however, do not seem to daunt the Opposition parties. They love to remain in their own make-believe paradise that Narendra Modi is losing his grip on public opinion, he added.