Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar — who has taken on the challenging task of bringing on board parties not keen on sharing space with Congress in a united opposition front — will continue the journey tomorrow with a visit to Kolkata and Lucknow. On his list are two leaders likely to prove the most difficult in view of their past associations with the Congress — Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Asked about the matter, Mr Kumar, though, was coy. “Why ask such questions now? We will talk when we have done everything,” he told reporters.
Sources have said after his visit to Kolkata, Mr Kumar, accompanied by his deputy Tejashwi Yadav, will head for Lucknow.
Akhilesh Yadav has made it clear that he has no interest in a front that includes the Congress — attending a few meetings with like-minded opposition parties, including Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. He had not pulled punches either after crashing in the 2017 polls, which he contested in alliance with the Congress.
Ditto Mamata Banerjee, who has been blowing hot about the Congress, especially since the party snatched an assembly seat from her Trinamool Congress in the recent by-elections in the state.
Several Opposition parties, though, hold on to the hope of bringing the prospective ‘Third Front’ leaders on board following the universal outrage over Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from parliament.
Mr Kumar, known for his rapport with leaders across the board, has taken on the tough task. The Congress is handling the current allies and friendly parties.
The decision was taken at a meeting last week between Mr Kumar and Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, which was also attended by Rahul Gandhi. The day after, he had taken the plunge with a meeting with Arvind Kejriwal.
After the meeting, Mr Kejriwal had said he was “entirely with him”. It is extremely necessary that the entire opposition and the country come together and change the government at the Centre,” he had added.
The Left has applauded Mr Kumar’s initiative, saying the country is passing through a very critical period”.
Mr Kumar’s game plan to take on the BJP in the 2024 general election is to field a single opposition candidate against it in every seat of the country to prevent a split in the opposition vote. The formula has worked in 1977 and 1989.