Congress MP and national spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi. (File photo)
The vexed issue of leadership of the opposition ranks should not be an immediate concern, says Congress MP and national spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, who has good equations with Trinamool Congress and is also a key member of his party’s brains trust. Excerpts from a conversation with Subodh Ghildiyal:
Given the post-West Bengal polls push for opposition unity, concerns are that it may flounder on the question of leadership?
Politics and charity are two different things. Personal ambition must be recognised. But the leadership issue necessarily has to be put into a “thanda basta” till everything else is done and the 2024 poll results are out. It is astonishing that while we celebrate India’s diversity, we tend to be intolerant of diversity in political cauldron. This is what BJP has exploited and the recalibration of opposition unity for 2024 will reset this button.
The other key contradiction is that Congress and many regional parties are rivals in states.
The theory that national parties and some regional parties, fighting each other in some states, can’t come together, has been debunked many times. Large part of the UPA rule had ironed out this contradiction. Like, to expect the Left and TMC to come together in Bengal would be wishful thinking but there is no reason why they can’t be participating elements in a central formation.
How will competing opposition parties in a state join hands?
When you unite, each sub unit gives up something. When total opposition unity for 2024 is clinched, adjustments will also necessarily be made as per local context.
You believe such differences can be set aside for a larger anti-BJP coalition?
Unity by definition assumes pre-existing differences and it also assumes submergence of differences. Prior to Bengal polls, the gap between TMC and Congress was wider but much ground has been covered since. With other parties, the coordination within the Parliament and outside is considerably improved.
The impetus of unity is riding Bengal outcome. Will not a good showing by BJP in February-March polls deflate this momentum?
I don’t agree that 2022 assembly polls will remotely be a disappointment for Congress or other opposition parties. In UP, Uttarakhand and Goa, BJP is running scared. The thrust of opposition unity will continue at full throttle till 2024. The Modi government’s excesses have become the best impetus for opposition unity.
Is opposition unity just about alliances or something deeper?
There has to be an organised methodology, a solid statistical base of data and electoral arrangements ranging from unstated strategic adjustments to full coalitions. The next two years must be spent on this.
The BJP campaign is that opposition unity is just about power. How do you counter that?
BJP’s success because of lack of opposition unity has resulted in casualties of governance like Covid mismanagement, social divisiveness, unaddressed issues of security like Pegasus and attempted control of constitutional institutions. We owe it to India to find a way out of this mess.