Stalin jumps the gun, spoils show

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]MK patriarch Karunanidhi’s successor MK Stalin seems to have debuted his fancied role in national politics on the wrong foot. He launched his initiative with a proposal that Congress president Rahul Gandhi be made the leader of the coalition against BJP in the 2019 elections. The setting was right as Sonia Gandhi unveiled the Kalaigner’s statue in the presence of Rahul himself, Chandrababu Naidu and a few others, but the new DMK ‘Thalaivar’ appeared to have been overwhelmed by the occasion. He did not stop at proposing Rahul’s name, but stressed the Gandhi scion had the ability to defeat Modi. He then extolled Rahul to give the nation ‘good governance’ and steady the nation’s course away from BJP, which has taken the country 15 years back. He was only emulating his illustrious father, who had ‘wholeheartedly’ welcomed Indira Gandhi in 1980 and Sonia Gandhi in 2014. He believes it is now his turn to do that to Rahul Gandhi.

The optimism did not, however, last long as most parties that are key stakeholders in forging a united front against the Modi government expressed surprise and distanced themselves from Stalin’s idea. Not even Chandrababu Naidu supported it. The Opposition parties have been veering round to the view that the prime ministerial face of the Mahagathbandhan alternative would be decided only after the elections. The approach was also in keeping with the fact that many of the leaders were harbouring prime ministerial ambitions and no particular leader enjoyed any distinct advantage.

Stalin’s ‘exuberance’ already left its mark on the prospects of Opposition unity. One of the immediate casualties was the decision by Mamata Banerjee to stay away from the swearing-in of Kamal Nath, who had planned to make the installation of his new MP ministry a splash of Opposition unity, similar to the one staged in Bengaluru with great fanfare on the occasion of the swearing in of the HD Kumaraswamy ministry earlier this year. The so-called ‘unity festival’ had revived the hopes of all parties opposing the Modi government coming on a common platform and the idea even produced stellar results in the by-elections that followed. But gradually there was a drift, which prevented the parties from even collaborating in the latest round of Assembly elections, although regional satraps Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have pledged their support for Congress to form the government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as the party failed to make the numbers on its own.

A resurgent Congress may have improved its chance to play the lead role against the Modi government in the all-important 2019 elections. But there are wheels within wheels that make it anything but a simple affair. Further complicating the scene is the revival of the move for a non-BJP, non-Congress third front.