- Congress-JDS success in Karnataka a booster shot for parties
- They plan to present united front against BJP in general elections
- Rahul Gandhi should lead opposition charge in 2019: HD Kumaraswamy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, the self-appointed facilitator for a united opposition, pressed on with the task on Thursday, meeting former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy, who is also the Chief Minister of Karnataka. The three leaders agreed that bringing together the opposition was the need of the hour to "save the country's institutions" from the BJP -- the question of prime ministerial candidate is one that can wait.
The meeting comes days after the Congress and Mr Kumaraswamy's success at the by-elections in Karnataka, a 4:1 victory that has put fresh heart in the opposition. The Karnataka Chief Minister -- who hosted the first unofficial meet of the opposition at his oath ceremony in May -- said it proved that arithmetic was crucial and the opposition, if united, can beat the BJP.
After the meeting, Mr Kumaraswamy said he was confident of victory in the Lok Sabha polls. "1996 will repeat in 2019," he said, referring to the time when various regional parties managed to cobble up a United Front with Congress support and his father as the Prime Minister.
Mr Naidu, who came to Delhi last week and met a string of opposition leaders including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi -- whom he is partnering for the coming elections in Telangana -- Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah, said his next stop will be in Chennai tomorrow to meet DMK chief MK Stalin. Over the last weeks, the chief of Telugu Desam Party has been on the go, meeting Mayawati -- an ally of Mr Kumaraswamy -- Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
"It is essential that the opposition unite to save democracy at a time when national institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bureau of Investigation have been compromised," said Mr Naidu. "The investigation agency, which is supposed to be autonomous, is now being used to keep the opposition under control," said the Chief Minister who has faced raids by the Income Tax Department along with several of his ministers.
Mr Kumaraswamy, who after the by-poll results, said Congress chief Rahul Gandhi should lead the opposition charge in 2019, however, tweaked the message today. Asked who should lead the united opposition, he said, "Leadership is not the issue... there is no vacuum in leadership".
The TDP chief, too, shrugged off a question on Mr Gandhi's likely candidature for prime ministership. "You are interested in the PM candidate and politics while I am interested in saving democracy. There is a conflict of interest here," he said.
Mr Kumaraswamy agreed it was not a decision to be made in haste. "There are several leaders in various opposition parties who are capable of running the country properly. That can be discussed later -- the point now is to unite the opposition and save democracy," he said.
He claimed that the meeting with the TDP chief was a success. "It went very well. Chandrababuji and Deve Gowdaji are old friends. They have been working together for the last 25 years. They discussed several issues, including ways to move towards the 2019 parliamentary elections. This meeting will be helpful in strengthening our future-day secular leaders," he told NDTV, adding that Mr Naidu was a "capable leader who can organise all secular forces".
The Janata Dal(Secular) leader also announced a mega-meeting of opposition leaders, similar to the one witnessed at his oath ceremony, in the coming months. "I plan to hold the event by December-end or January-start. All regional leaders, with the exception of BJP members, will be invited," he said.
The BJP has downplayed Mr Naidu's efforts, terming it as political tourism. The party has also targeted Mr Naidu on his remark that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been swallowing up national institutions. Insisting that Mr Naidu is capable of stooping to any level, state BJP chief Kanna Lakshminarayana said, "The man who passed a resolution in the NDA meeting in 2017, that Modi should become prime minister again is now trying to portray the latter as a culprit".