The presence of several opposition leaders at Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in is not merely honoring the invitation but a display of opposition unity and making the sides clear.
The swearing-in of the 24th Chief Minister of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy was a grand ceremony the state witnessed. Unlike the outgoing BS Yeddyurappa who, in a low-key event took the oath at Glass House in Raj Bhavan, HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony was held on the flight of stairs that lead up to the Vidhan Soudha. A huge stage was built, the red carpet was laid down and as much as one lakh chairs were placed in front of the huge stage. Indeed, the swearing-in ceremony of the JD(S) chief is going to be a grand affair.
However, all of mentioned above about the swearing-in fails to draw as much attention as the guest list for the swearing-in ceremony. From the alliance partner Congress President Rahul Gandhi to the new political entrant of Tamil Nadu- Kamal Hassan, the guest list includes a score of opposition leaders. What is more surprising is, most of them, 11 to be exact are thronging the swearing-in ceremony.
The guest list is prepared by HD Kumaraswamy’s father and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. Reportedly, the party patron also personally invited each of these opposition leaders. The guest list includes as much as five Chief Ministers- Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), KC Rao (Telangana) and Chandrababu Naidu (TDP). The opposition party leaders being invited to the swearing-in include Rahul Gandhi (Congress), Sonia Gandhi (UPA Chairperson), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Tejaswi Yadav (RJD), MK Stalin (DMK), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Mayawati (BSP), Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), Ajit Singh (RLD), Kamal Hassan (MNM). While most of the guests have confirmed their presence; Stalin, Kamal Hassan, KC Rao and Sharad Pawar will not be attending the event. However, they have reportedly sent their best wishes to Kumaraswamy.
Though, bitterly fought Karnataka Election attracted the national headlines, the major reason why HD Kumarasamy’s swearing-in has turned eyeballs is the number of opposition leader attending the event. The retaining of the state was crucial for the existence of Congress and its post-poll ally JDS. However, the repercussions of the outcome were not limited to the state politics. With just a year to go for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Karnataka Election outcome was deemed as a semi-final. It was also speculated that it would set a tone for 2019 for the opposition. With Congress-JDS government being formed in the state, the opposition has come out from behind the curtain and seems to take concrete steps towards the idea of larger Federal Front. Thus, the presence of several opposition leaders at Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in is not merely honoring the invitation but a display of opposition unity and making the sides clear.
The idea of Federal Front which was floated after the Gorakhpur and Phulpur By-poll defeat of BJP received a nod from TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee and Telangana CM K Chandrashekhar Rao. Mamata Banerjee even pitched for regional party unity and a third front. However, political experts opine that keeping Congress out of the front will only narrow the prospects of opposition. The get-together of opposition leaders at today’s swearing-in indicates that the regional parties are ready to open the doors of talks to the Congress.
How will it affect the number game?
The united opposition aims to take on Modi and BJP which won the absolute majority in 2014 Lok Sabha election with the hope of improving the number tally in the lower house. So let us find out, given the current number of seat parties have in Lok Sabha, is it possible for the opposition to pose a strong challenge in front of Modi-Shah in 2019?
According to the latest figures, the BJP after losing several by-polls stands at 272 i.e. exact majority mark. On the other hand, Congress improved on 4 seats and has reached to 48. TMC has 34 seats while TDP and TRS have 16 and 11 seats, respectively. CPI(M) at present has 9 seats whereas Samajwadi Party has 7 seats. RJD and AAP both have 4 seats. The Janata Dal-Secular which came into the picture of the possible coalition after Karnataka Election has mere 2 seats. NCP has 6 seats. BSP, RLD, NC, and MNM have no representatives in Lok Sabha. The sum total of the seats is 141, which is still far below the majority mark.
However, there are several factors that may boost the prospect of opposition. The coalition with regional parties in every state may help the opposition to spread its base to the lowest denominator across the country. The coalitions like that of SP-BSP in UP or JDS-BSP in Karnataka will help consolidate the vote banks. With the opposition begins laying cards, today’s display of opposition strength is certainly a trailer of 2019.
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