Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha has said opposition unity against the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections is a "work in progress" but underlined that the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party should have included Congress in the alliance in Uttar Pradesh that would have "finished the game".
He also said even if the concept of one common candidate against the Bharatiya Janata Party has not emerged so far "closer to elections" it may materialise. "Even if there is no grand alliance at the national level, there will be state-specific alliances to corner the BJP," Mr Sinha said.
"Yes, the BSP and SP should have accommodated the Congress. That would have finished the game," he told IANS in an interview about the alliance in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha.
Mr Sinha, who resigned from the BJP last year and has floated the Rashtra Manch, a non-party platform, said his advice to opposition parties was that they should come together and form strong alliances and have a common minimum programme at the national level.
He said there was no need to go into the "Modi versus who" question being raised by the BJP before the elections and named Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, H.D. Deve Gowda and Rahul Gandhi as among leaders with qualities to be Prime Minister.
Mr Sinha, 81, expressed hope that if a "mahagatbandhan" (grand alliance) was not created at the national level, there will be effective state-level alliances to take on the BJP.
He said the idea of putting up a common opposition candidate against the BJP has not materialised.
"Perhaps it is not looking like materialising so far, but I am sure closer to elections something may happen," he said, adding added that efforts were being made in that direction.
Asked about the opposition parties not coming together to form a grand alliance in several states, Mr Sinha said: "it is not easy for disparate elements to come together and these parties are individual separate parties because they are different.
"So it is not easy for them to come together. Some attempts are being made but necessity is the mother of the invention," he said, adding that in states such as Jharkhand, Karanataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, opposition parties have come together.
"So there are many states where they have come together. There will be issues because they will have to agree not only on the number of seats but specifically which seat but I am hopeful even if this so-called Mahagatbandhan at the national level is not created there will be effective state level alliances to take on the BJP."
The former Minister said there were some settled principles on the basis of which seat distribution can decided if everyone is liberal and fair about it.
Answering a query on the index of opposition unity, the former Finance and External Affairs Minister said it was work in progress. "Opposition unity is work in progress."
On a common CMP of opposition, he said efforts are being made in the direction.
He said opposition parties have understood the importance of social media and Modi will not have an advantage in his campaign.
Answering a query on Priyanka Gandhi entering active politics, he said it will have an impact on the voters in Uttar Pradesh as well as nationally and it will help the Congress.
Asked about the opposition candidate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the upcoming elections, he said it is a very idle question that the BJP is persuading people to ask because it suits them.
"The counter to the BJP is who was the Chief Minister candidate of BJP in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand when state elections were held there. And who have been the BJP's prime ministerial candidate earlier.
"Who have been the BJP prime ministerial candidates earlier. The first time the BJP said that Mr Vajpayee will be the prime ministerial candidate was in 1995 before 1996 elections when Advaniji announced it. Who was the prime ministerial candidate in 1977 when the Janata Party scored such a massive victory?" he asked.
He said there was no declared prime ministerial candidate when Congress stitched an alliance with other parties to form the UPA government in 2004.
"So, therefore, when you look at our political history you will find the parties have anointed somebody only when it suited. Otherwise, they have gone without a so-called commander-in- chief, without a projected leader. More recently the BJP also has been doing it."
He said it suits the BJP and they were asking everyone to ask this question and were even making fun as BJP chief Amit Shah has done by asking who will be the prime minister (of opposition) on Monday and who will be on Tuesday.
He said the candidate has eventually emerged as was the case in 1996.
Mr Sinha said when Narendra Modi was projected as the prime ministerial candidate, he was chief minister of Gujarat.
"Now we have many chief ministers in opposition ranks. We have many former chief ministers. We have many chief ministers who also have been central ministers. We have central ministers who have occupied important positions. Therefore, anyone can fill the bill."
Asked if can be Mamata Banerjee or Mayawati, he added more names.
"Mamata, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, (H. D.) Deve Gowda, Rahul Gandhi," he said, adding that though Gandhi does not have administrative experience his party was doing well now.
Asked if he had endorsed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier, Sinha said he had not endorsed her.
"I barely said that she has the qualities to be a prime minister. One has to be be very careful or else media twist it. Who does not have the qualities, several people have qualities. That is why I am telling you what was Modi before, he was just chief minister of a state."
Mr Sinha said he had talked about Mamata Banerjee because a question was posed to him. "No one asked about others."
To a further question about Mayawati, he said: "I have named all these people who can fill the bill."
Asked about his assessment of how Rahul Gandhi has come up, he said he has come up very well.
"The way he was made fun of, he has proved them wrong. I think Modi and Amit Shah who wanted a Congress-Mukt Bharat and were talking about it, that has completely vanished from the discussion now," Mr Sinha said he will not contest elections.
"As of now, no," he said, adding that he had decided not to take part in electoral politics before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The former Finance Minister said he did not have problem with the BJP of Vajpayee and Advani but he had issues with the style of working of Modi and party President Amit Shah.
Mr Sinha said ruled out his going back to the BJP but said "it will be a better party without them (Modi and Shah)".
He said the most important issue against the government was that it has destroyed all the institutions in this country. "The federal structure has been badly hit under this government."
He named agrarian distress, unemployment, issues concerning Dalits and crimes against women as other issues that the opposition would highlight.
He said considering the country's diverse political landscape, a federal party concept "is an interesting concept which should be explored".
He said such a front can have alliances with national parties such as Congress and CPI-M.
Asked if he will play a role in the formation of such a party, Sinha said he can play a role up to a limit. "Your effort depends on your accommodation space that everyone else is prepared to give you." Mr Sinha said he will try definitely to bring opposition parties together.
"I will try definitely to make it as reasonable as possible for everyone. I am prepared to give whatever assistance whatever anybody wants. And it will depend on them now."