After Lalu Yadav’s anti-BJP rally planned for August 27 in Patna, opposition unity will face its big test in Gujarat where the Congress has decided to launch a satyagraha on 1 September along with other opposition parties, to protest what it calls are attacks on tribals in the state. Gujarat, which has been ruled by the BJP for over two decades, goes to polls later this year and the Congress is hoping to consolidate goodwill among tribals and Patidar.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi are expected to lead this protest.
A Congress leader told NDTV that invitations were being sent to opposition leaders for the mega protest in Gujarat and the party expected a good show at the satyagraha protest. The plan comes days after 66-year-old Ahmed Patel’s election as a Rajya Sabha member, surviving cross-voting and defections for which the Congress has blamed ruling BJP.
It is, however, not clear how the opposition support at the 1 September protest can translate into votes in a state where the BJP and the Congress have been the two big players. Between the two of them, they have accounted for nearly 85 per cent of the votes in the last few assembly elections.
In 2012 for instance, the BJP secured won 115 seats with 48 per cent votes, the Congress came next with 39 per cent that netted the party 61 seats.
Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party and the Janata Dal (United) are the only two parties that have support in a few pockets and had landed all of three seats; a combined vote share of less than 2 per cent.
But the distance between the NCP and the Congress has been growing in recent days. On Friday, Sharad Pawar did not send a nominee to attend a joint opposition strategy meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhi and told the Congress that he was unwell. But NCP’s Praful Patel made it known that Mr Pawar’s absence was a message. “The NCP is boycotting the meeting called by Congress,” said Mr Patel, piqued at the Congress’ refusal to buy its line that an NCP legislator had supplied the winning vote to Ahmed Patel.
Congress sources allege that the NCP is already in talks with former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela to float a new party which could contest the Gujarat assembly elections at the end of the year, turning it into a three-party contest.
Slighted by Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to name him the party’s presumptive chief minister, Mr Vaghela chipped nearly a dozen Gujarat lawmakers off the Congress block; some of them have already joined the BJP.