Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav. (PTI Photo)
The biggest onus and greatest opportunity to defeat the seemingly invincible Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government lies with the regional parties, reflected Akhilesh Yadav, chief of Samajwadi Party, and he is very right in his assessment.
Mr Akhilesh Yadav himself has three major advantages in providing direction to the cause of Opposition unity — firstly, he is from Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state in India and most defining battleground for the Lok Sabha, and it will be the performance of his party, the SP, that will be very crucial; secondly, the secular credentials of his party and his family are unimpeachable, and finally, most significantly, as the youngest of leaders in the spectrum, he is not a candidate for Prime Minister, a point which greatly empowers him to take the talks to other big leaders.
Since he is not a PM candidate, Mr Akhilesh Yadav, along with Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy CM of Bihar and RJD steward, another young secular and Hindi belt leader, can be a core nucleus of the anti-Modi front. With these two young leaders being focused on their respective states, their lack of ambition for the top slot will give them a good chip with those who do nurse the high office dream — from Mamata Banerjee to Arvind Kejriwal to K. Chandrashekar Rao.
Akhilesh Yadav is right in his assessment that the big fight to the BJP led by the Modi-[Amit] Shah duo must come not from the Congress, whose track record is weak, but from the regional parties, because the BJP has its weakest and poorest record against regional parties, and its worst against non-Hindi speaking regional parties.
The BJP has never performed well in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, or Tamil Nadu, which have regional parties based on linguistic and regional pride; and the only win of the saffron party in the south till date is recorded in Karnataka, where it takes on the Congress.
Thus, it stands to reason that the young Yadav duo can take initiative and bring in various leaders and heads of parties from Bengal to Telangana, Punjab to Bihar, Delhi to Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand to Kashmir, and even try to co-opt the recalcitrant regional leaders of Andhra and Odisha.
If all these regional parties, either on their own or together, hold on to their respective forts, and hold out a friendly hand to the Congress Party, again in a grand big fashion, or in small localised manner, the anti-Modi front will be truly present to fight a fierce contest.
Akhilesh Yadav did refer to the role of the Congress in such a manner, saying it would be for the Grand Old Party to decide its own role. Interestingly, while he acknowledged that different parties and leaders are making their own initiatives and moves to form a front, the SP chief was smart to concede that independent and parallel initiatives without coherence or unity at present could still be foundational for a grand coming together of forces at the right time.
Whatever one stands for, no Indian would disagree that democracy needs an Opposition, and never has a party or government looked so strong, and the Opposition so weak, as now that all of us would support Mr Yadav for its credo that a stronger Opposition is a must for a stronger democracy, and a stronger India.