Presidential Election: Acid Test For Opposition

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New Delhi: Non-NDA parties on Monday spoke of the need to work out a common strategy for a larger opposition grouping in order to take on the resurgent BJP, and treat the upcoming presidential elections as the “acid test” for this unity.

The parties were here to observe the birth anniversary of socialist icon Madhu Limaye as the “unity of progressive forces”. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, CPI’s D Raja and Atul Kumar Anjan, NCP’s D P Tripathi, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, Janata Dal (Secular)’s Danish Ali, Raghu Thakur of  Lok Satta Party and historian Irfan Habib were among those present on the occasion.

Yechury said the first test of this unity would be the presidential elections. He said that everyone knows the country runs through a Cabinet system, but “the question is what supervision is there in the President House and whether that supervision will be secular supervision or communal supervision”.

On the issue of a grand alliance of the opposition for 2019, Yechury sounded cautious. He said that “politics is not governed by mathematics” and that the “challenge today is of ideology and principles”. His remarks came days after a number of opposition leaders, Yechury included, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss these issues.
Yechury also called for “narrowing the distance” between communist and socialist forces. He said the CPM believed that “class struggle in India is now standing on two feet —- one foot is economic exploitation and the other is social exploitation. As long as there is no united struggle against both, the economic as well as caste exploitation, man will not be able to walk.” Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his assertions on triple talaq, Yechury said, “What will you do to those who desert their wife without giving triple talaq?”

While a number of speakers made a strong pitch for a grand alliance against the BJP in the 2019 General Election, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh sounded a word of caution. He recalled that opposition parties had come together in a similar manner against Indira Gandhi in 1971, but Indira demolished them all by telling the masses that while she wanted to remove poverty, they all had a common goal of ‘Indira hatao’.“If this grand alliance is not formed in a proper manner, then it will be Modi versus the others. This fight must not be personality-based. It has to ideology-based,” he said.

Limaye’s son Aniruddha Limaye said that while an image of a “messiah” had been created around Modi, the image of other leaders had become somewhat sullied. “If you want to fight the regressive and fascist policies of this government, you will have to make an organisation and go for agitations. Look at how organisations like the RSS was created,” he said.

Sharad Yadav said, “We will unite and save the nation.” He attacked the government over its foreign and domestic policies including Kashmir where, he said, the situation has reached a critical stage. CPI’s Atul Kumar Anjan flagged the need for comprehensive opposition unity. “JD(U), CPI and CPM may have differences with the Congress. But the challenge is bigger,” he said.

BSP leader Sudheendra Bhadoria stressed the need of unity of thought and action. Justice Rajinder Sachar spoke of eschewing the difference “between words and deeds”, echoing the sentiments of a number of speakers who rued the political “fighting among the secular block itself”.

While opposition leaders said that Limaye did not share his colleague Ram Manohar Lohia’s pitch for anti-Congressism, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan in a press statement said that the socialist icon was his ideal and a source of inspiration “who opposed the Congress throughout his life.”

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