K.C. Tyagi, in the thick of things as far as forming a united Opposition against the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is concerned, spoke with Sreeparna Chakrabarty about presidential elections and farmers’ unrest
He is in the thick of things as far as forming a united Opposition against the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is concerned. A close aide of Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar, K.C. Tyagi has made use of his political contacts to bring together 17 Opposition on a common platform. The former Rajya Sabha member says that the coming presidential polls would be a “test case” for Opposition unity and might pave the way for a bigger consolidation ahead of the 2019 general elections.
What is the road ahead as far as a united Opposition is concerned?
Since the first joint meeting of Opposition parties called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on May 26, the chances of Opposition unity have become brighter. The presidential polls are a test case as far as Opposition unity is concerned. From here we might go ahead and form a large anti-Modi force to counter the ascendance of rightwing forces. Everybody agrees that we need to be together to stop the communal forces.
But there are already doubts over a joint Opposition presidential candidate, with many parties saying that they will have to rethink if the ruling party’s candidate fulfils their regional criteria.
There is nothing like that. All this talk about a consensus candidate is an attempt by the BJP to try and break the Opposition ranks. The RSS-BJP has never come this close to occupying the President’s office, why should they leave this opportunity. Look at the way they are talking to all parties individually. They are trying to divide us. If we are looking for a candidate together, then they should speak to us in the same voice. The fact that they are not serious is evident by how the ministers came over to meet without any names. This is non-serious action on the part of the government.
Has anybody spoken with your party from the government side?
No. Not yet. We are waiting. But our stand is that any candidate proposed by the ruling side needs to be secular. He or she has to be qualified enough to occupy the high constitutional position. Only impeccable secular credentials would satisfy us that the person concerned can be the President.
So already there is a rethink on the Opposition being together?
You have to understand that whatever happens, the coming together of all 17 parties has put pressure on the government. The recent incidents in Mandsaur… the way the farmers have come together is all due to this momentum of the presidential polls. And it is due to these massive farmers’ protests that the government is now trying to break Opposition ranks. They are under pressure. Farmers are out on the streets everywhere. In fact, I just wish that the NDA does come out with a hardcore RSS presidential candidate, then the Opposition will unite further.
Are any back-channel talks on as far as presidential polls are concerned?
There are no talks at all. It is a non-serious attempt at building consensus. If they don’t have names, then what are they going around meeting people for? They have instead asked for names from the Opposition, I heard.
Who are the Opposition’s candidates?
Many names have been written about. Our sole criteria is that the person should be secular enough and have the respect and authority to occupy the high constitutional position.
Do you have any plans of scaling up the farmers’ agitation?
Of course. We are already working on that. This government has failed the agriculture sector miserably. They have not fulfilled the promises made in their election manifesto of 2014 of providing MSP plus 50 per cent cost of production. Instead, they have been shifting goalposts by saying they will double farm incomes by 2019. However, in this agitation, it is the farmers’ organisations which have to take the lead.