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Opposition needs alternative narratives to fight BJP: Nitish Kumar

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-07-2017 Pretika Khanna

New Delhi: The rift within the opposition widened on Monday after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar took the parties to task for failing to come up with an alternative narrative to the ascendant Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Instead of picking on themes like rural distress and its impact on farmers, the opposition, Nitish Kumar said, was being reactive—allowing the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep the initiative.

Implicitly, Kumar was targeting the Congress, which has assumed the role of pulling together an anti-BJP coalition. The relations between the two are already strained after the Bihar chief minister decided to back the BJP candidate in this month’s presidential election.

“It’s duty of the opposition to oppose the government... We should have alternative narratives (agendas) for the benefit of the country, more than relying only on reactive narratives,” Kumar told reporters in Patna on Monday.

Kumar said, “The opposition should have alternative narratives to go to the people against the ruling party on key issues like the problem of farmers.”

With Congress at the helm, the anti-BJP coalition is facing problems as some prominent members of the political group are asserting themselves.

“At a book release function in Delhi where Rahul Gandhi was also present, I had said that Congress is a big party, they should call (a meeting) and set the agenda. Issues like farmers, promises of the government are big issues which the alternative needs to set an agenda for,” Kumar said.

The chief minister elaborated that by setting an alternative narrative in the 2015 Bihar elections, the grand alliance comprising his Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress had been able to upstage the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

“In Bihar, there was a definite agenda for what we will do and went to the people with that which led to the win. On the other side they (NDA) were just reacting. If you look at the election carefully, there was unity, the frame was clear and the agenda forward was also set in case of the alliance. That is why we managed to gain majority. (In) NDA there was no picture of unity or alternative agenda,” he said.

Kumar’s comments come at a time when questions have been raised on the continuity of the alliance after JD(U) decided to back NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind while the other members including the Congress and RJD backed the opposition’s Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha speaker.

“Different parties have separate views on the presidential elections. It is not an issue. The grand alliance government’s priority is to implement the programmes that it promised,” Kumar said.

Another fissure in the opposition ranks was visible after Kumar said that he had not received any invitation for the public meeting of all opposition parties being organized by RJD chief Lalu Prasad in Bihar on 27 August. Senior leaders of the JD(U) say that the corruption allegations against Lalu Prasad and his family members are a big reason for a dilemma in the JD(U) over attending the public meeting.

With less than two years to go for the next general elections, the JD(U) chief once again ruled himself out of contention as the face of the opposition.

“I cannot say about who the face (for 2019 elections) will be. I have said earlier also, I am not the face for opposition for 2019 polls, neither can I be. I don’t have the capability nor do I have the aspiration for it,” Kumar said.

Analysts say that Kumar is trying to carve a leadership space for himself in the opposition.

“What he is trying to do is get a leadership space in the anti-BJP parties. Don’t agree that he is trying to go to the BJP. Knowing that after the Uttar Pradesh polls, other opposition parties do not have the muscle power to lead. He is looking at it as an opportunity for himself,” Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst, said.

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