Image Credit: ANI

Only last week I wrote a column on how difficult opposition unity was proving to be to take on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in next year’s general elections. And this week, it blew up in our faces as the Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) got into a major spat, exposing the deep rift in the opposition ranks.

First, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge made a significant statement, saying that an alliance government would be formed at the centre in 2024, which would be lead by the Congress.

He said the Congress was in touch with other parties on the same. That in itself was a major admission by the grand old party, that only a coalition was a realistic possibility.

But 24 hours later, Rahul Gandhi shot that to pieces, as he launched a scathing attack on Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress while campaigning in Meghalaya.

At a rally in Shillong, Rahul Gandhi said, “you know the history of the TMC, the violence that takes place in Bengal. the Saradha scam that has taken place. they came to Goa and spent a huge amount of money to help the BJP, This is exactly the idea in Meghalaya”.

Congress vs TMC slugfest

A seething TMC hit back hours later, with Mamata’s nephew and party MP Abhishek Banerjee putting out a series of furious tweets. “The Congress has failed to resist the BJP”, he said, adding that “ irrelevance, incompetence and insecurity has put them in a state of delirium ... by the same logic, when the Congress contested 92 seats in Bengal in 2021, was their idea to help the BJP?”

The spat further exposes the deep contradictions in the opposition ranks, as well as confusion within the Congress party on how to pursue the road ahead.

Otherwise why would Rahul Gandhi make such an attack on a major opposition player only a day after his party president spoke of an alliance government in 2024? The Congress has a history of arrogance in dealing with allies and is often openly haughty.

Only a few days ago, Congress leaders made snide remarks about Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s comments that he was waiting for the Congress to take the initiative on forging an anti BJP front.

We know our role in national politics, Jairam Ramesh of the Congress retorted, making a dig that some regional forces (aka Nitish’s JDU for example) have helped the BJP and have two faces.

Fissures in Opposition camp

Many regional players know they will have to play ball with the Congress to take on the BJP but they also deeply mistrust the party. Look at some of the major states which send the maximum number of Lok Sabha MPs into parliament.

In Bihar, which has 40 seats, the JDU and the RJD want an alliance with the Congress but stayed away from the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March).

In Bengal, there are deep rooted tensions between all the key players — the TMC, Congress and the Left. Mamata even stayed away from Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, as did Nitish, Akhilesh Yadav and others.

Only 8 of the 23 opposition parties invited for the yatra’s grand finale in Srinagar turned up. For many regional parties, an alliance with the Congress at the centre is fine, but they are wary of how this may play out for them at the state level.

Down South, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK’s) MK Stalin has a big birthday bash next week but at the moment, other key opposition parties like Mamata, Kejriwal, KCR are not attending, exposing fissures among regional forces too.

Kejriwal’s AAP is eating into Congress votes wherever it goes, the latest being Gujarat. While Asaddudin Owaisi’s AIMIM is accused by the Congress of helping the BJP by dividing the minority vote.

In this climate of mistrust, it is hard to see how opposition parties will come together ahead of 2024. This admixture (khichdi) has only one man smiling — Narendra Modi.