A letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed by nine opposition leaders, condemning the alleged misuse of central agencies against members of the opposition, has highlighted divisions within the anti-BJP camp and the challenge for a united front in the 2024 general elections. Notably, Congress, the DMK, and the Left did not sign the letter, indicating strained ties within the opposition.
Driving Force Behind the Letter
According to sources, the AAP and the BRS were the driving force behind the letter, with Delhi and Punjab Chief Ministers Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann, Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao, former Jammu and Kashmir CM and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, former Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, former Uttar Pradesh CM and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav signing the letter.
The absence of Congress from the letter was not surprising, given that Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary and senior leader Sandeep Dikshit welcomed the arrest of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia last Sunday. Furthermore, the Congress high command issued a statement criticizing the central agencies for “harassment” without mentioning any names. Congress leaders in Delhi and West Bengal have frequently targeted Banerjee, holding her “singularly responsible” for the rise of the BJP in West Bengal.
TMC’s National Ambitions
The TMC’s national ambitions have been deflated following electoral losses in Goa and the Northeast. Mamata Banerjee’s statement following the losses in Tripura and Meghalaya indicated that the TMC would go it alone in the 2024 elections. The Congress and the TMC also have strained ties, worsened by the recent by-poll loss in Sagardighi to Congress and the row over the arrest of a state Congress spokesperson for remarks against Banerjee.
At the Raipur plenary last month, the Congress expressed its willingness to work with “like-minded parties” and forge a “viable alternative” to take on the BJP. However, it spoke of the UPA model where Congress led the alliance, sending a message to parties keen on forming a non-Congress grouping that the emergence of any third force would provide an advantage to the BJP. Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh has also accused some opposition parties of sitting in meetings but favouring the ruling party.
DMK chief and Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin has rejected the idea of a third front and urged all regional parties, including the Congress, to think of national politics. Stalin called for unity as a unified force to defeat the BJP, saying that arguments surrounding a third front are pointless. The TMC, the BRS, and the Left did not attend Stalin’s rally in Chennai.
(Talha Rashid is a Delhi-based independent researcher. Views are personal)