Opposition should stem defection to Modi camp: Chidambaram

Unless opposition parties stem defection to Modi’s camp, it will be difficult to put up a united fight against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, says senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram.

He also feels the line-up for the next polls is not clear yet, but the Congress must co-opt other opposition parties to create a broad platform to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“The line up is not clear. See, two things are happening. Some opposition parties JD-U, AIADMK are defecting to Modi’s camp. In the case of other opposition parties, significant leaders and significant sections of parties are defecting to the BJP camp. Unless the opposition parties stem this defection, it will be difficult to put up a united fight against the BJP,” Chidambaram told IANS in an interview, the first part of which, dealing with the economy, was released Tuesday.

The former Finance Minister said that in Gujarat the Congress lost 14 MLAs and Trinamool Congress lost six in Tripura.

“These are serious setbacks. This is a problem and the Congress party has to address the problem. First, it must stem any defection of its leaders and ranks to the BJP. Second, it must co-opt other opposition parties and create a broad platform. Since the Congress is the only other party with a national footprint, it is the Congress’ duty to create this opposition platform,” he said.

Asked about parties like Odisha’s Biju Janata Dal and how to rope them into an anti-BJP platform, Chidambaram said, “I don’t deal with these matters or the leaders. All I can say is that it is in the interest of the nation that these parties come together on one platform.”

He also expressed confidence that like-minded parties could be brought together. “There are people on the job.”

To a question on the perception war the BJP won on the demonetisation issue, Chidambaram said, “I don’t know whether he (Modi) is winning. He won the war earlier. But after the demonetisation report (of RBI) and the GDP number, I think there is a change in perception.”

He conceded that the opposition parties did not fully exploit the demonetisation fiasco because of the dissenting voices among them.

“Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Navin Patnaik … they welcomed demonetisation. The opposition did not speak in one voice against demonetisation and that muddied the waters; and Modi’s ability to communicate and convince a large proportion of people to believe that the demonetisation was something good for the country. But after the RBI report I doubt if a majority of the people are still convinced that the demonetisation was good. But that only time will tell,” he said.

Speaking about the Congress, Chidambaram said, “It is mixed. In Gujarat we lost 14 MLAs. Newspaper reports say there is some dissent in Bihar. After we lost 14 MLAs, the rest of the party in Gujarat is consolidated and has got greater confidence. In Telangana the party is very active. But in Andhra Pradesh, the Nandyal bypoll result is very dismal. The picture is mixed across the country. Within the party, its a mixed picture.”

Asked about the Congress leadership and when Rahul Gandhi would take over reins of the party, Chidambaram said he is the Vice President and he did not know when he will take over as the party president.

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