Days after paeans were sung for opposition unity after various anti-BJP leaders gathered at the oath-taking ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy in Karnataka, there is already some friction in the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular alliance. But leaving that aside and assuming that the issues would be resolved, the question that gains relevance in proportion to the efforts of opposition unity is: Who will lead this alliance? It is important for the people to know an answer because they have the right to understand who their next potential Prime Minister could be. For now, opposition parties have been skirting the issues through technical reasoning:
That the prime ministerial candidate would be decided after the Lok Sabha result is out; that the elected parliamentarians would in a spirit of give-and-take decide on an appropriate name; that we have a parliamentary and not a presidential system, and so it’s not mandatory that a prime ministerial candidate gets decided beforehand. The fact, as everyone knows, is that these are excuses because deep differences exist among opposition parties on the subject. Most regional parties, for instance, are unenthusiastic about Congress president Rahul Gandhi leading a non-BJP front because of his terrible electoral track record.
Besides, the big regional leaders have a political stature that is higher than that of the Congress chief, and there is no reason why they subjugate themselves to an upstart — and that to a failed one. among the regional lobby, every regional outfit claims its chief is the fitted candidate to be Prime Minister. The failure to find a commonly accepted prime ministerial candidate is one reason why a pre-poll alliance among the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rivals at the national level is failing to take off.
The next best thing these parties have decided upon is a possible post-election coming-together. In other words, the Congress as well as the regional parties will contest against one another, and then join hands after the result is out to block the BJP’s attempt to retain power. The Karnataka model is the preferred route for them. But people’s confidence is unlikely to be shored up by this prospect. They have seen the messed-up consequences of post-poll opportunism, and regardless of the contest not being presidential in nature, they would be happier to know who would lead the country in case they voted for a non-BJP combination or separate set of parties. It’s here that the BJP with its undisputed choice in the form of Narendra Modi has an edge.