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As fault lines appear, opposition unity a tough task for Congress

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-07-2017 Anuja

New Delhi: Even before opposition parties could iron out their differences to counter the surging Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the fault lines in the opposition ranks have become visible.

After the preparations for presidential polls, the midnight GST (goods and services tax) rollout showed that the Congress party which was internally divided over its decision to boycott the event, is now finding it difficult to unite opposition parties under one umbrella. Even within the party, several leaders feel that its ‘sudden’ opposition to the tax regime, despite taking part in the GST Council meetings, could put it in a spot.

To make matters worse, key alliance partners including Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), Janata Dal (Secular) and Nationalist Congress Party, all attended the GST function.

The problem for the opposition parties could increase as the lack of unity has become visible just before the start of the monsoon session of Parliament later this month where the political group opposed to the National Democratic Alliance wanted to corner the government on the issues of farm debt, India’s relations with Pakistan and China and the alleged lack of preparedness in rolling out GST.

“When we should have taken credit for the legislation, party’s top leadership decided to boycott the GST launch event. There is a view that government’s unpreparedness in rolling it out should be highlighted strongly but many in the party feel that this looks like an afterthought specially after we were part of the legislation all along, supporting it in Parliament and eventually taking part in the key GST Council meetings. How do we oppose decisions which we have been a part of?” a senior Congress leader and a minister in party-ruled state said, requesting anonymity.

A day before the midnight GST launch event being hosted by the government, the Congress party officially announced it is boycotting it because it could not be a part of the “celebration” at a time when the country was grappling with issues of farm distress and incidents of mob lynching. Along with Congress, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the Left parties also stayed away.

The Congress has tried to play down Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to break ranks in the presidential polls and key opposition parties attending the GST launch event.

“We took a thought out call on both presidential polls and GST event, there was no reason that after supporting it for so long we should skip the launch event. Opposition unity definitely exists but we are individual political parties whose views could differ from one another over specific issues,” a senior JD(U) leader said, requesting anonymity.

Owing to its historic low numbers in the Lok Sabha and dismal performance in most state elections, Congress leaders are now tasked with ensuring opposition unity in the upcoming monsoon session (the first since GST came into force) as well as presidential and vice-presidential polls.

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