“This is not the time for debate, this is the time to save parliamentary democracy,” said NCP chief and Congress ally Sharad Pawar as he addressed a joint press conference with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, assuring that the people of Maharashtra would support the AAP in its crusade against the May 19 ordinance.
The NCP chief said this is not an issue restricted to Delhi or the Aam Aadmi Party but is a question on safeguarding the power of elected governments to govern. Going a step further, the veteran politician, citing his 56 years of experience, said he would travel to various states to garner support of non-BJP political parties for the same. “We have to focus on uniting all non-BJP parties. To ensure that all non-BJP parties support Arvind Kejriwal is our duty,” said Pawar in an apparent message for ally Congress, which is yet to take a stand on the Centre’s Delhi ordinance.
Seizing the moment, Kejriwal said: “I will formally seek time for a meeting with Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi tomorrow (May 25).”
After decimating the Congress to zero in the Delhi Assembly, this is the first time that the AAP chief has publicly and openly sought support from the top brass in the Grand Old Party. Ahead of the 2019 elections, Kejriwal had met Rahul Gandhi at Pawar’s residence in Delhi for a brief time. However, talks fell through as the Congress and AAP could not agree on who should fight on how many seats.
Meanwhile, the Left parties who have been with the Congress in Parliament — CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML), RSP, Forward Bloc — have already announced their opposition to the Centre’s ordinance. In fact, on May 24, they became the first to have demonstrated on the streets against the ordinance. On May 25, the CPI(M)’s mouthpiece, People’s Democracy, called upon the Supreme Court to nullify the ordinance and political parties to unite against it.
“The Supreme Court as the custodian of the Constitution will have to step in to nullify this draconian measure. At the political level, the entire opposition should unitedly oppose the ordinance when it is sought to be legislated through in Parliament.”
Taking special note of the Congress, the CPI(M)’s mouthpiece said: “The Congress party should stop dithering on its stand. The animosity towards Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP cannot determine its position. This is not about any individual leader or a single party — this is a basic attack on democracy and federalism.”
Terming it an indicator of “opposition unity” ahead of 2014, the CPI(M) mouthpiece said: “How unitedly the opposition parties move to oppose the ordinance will have a bearing on the unity to be forged for the bigger battle against the BJP looming ahead.”
In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee slammed the BJP and announced her party’s opposition to the ordinance, requesting other political parties to do the same. “I appeal to all parties. This is a chance for all of us to come together as the Opposition and send a big message across the nation that we can defeat the BJP in the Rajya Sabha and discard the ordinance.”
Similarly, in Mumbai, former Maharashtra chief minister and Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray, an ally of the Congress, also threw the weight of his party behind Kejriwal. “We all have come together to save the country and democracy. I think we should not be called ‘opposition’ parties. In fact, they (the Centre) should be called ‘opposition’ since they are against democracy and the Constitution.”
Also supporting Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar and RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav said: “We have come to give full support to Kejriwal-ji for the manner in which he is being harassed. The central government is doing injustice especially after the SC verdict makes everything clear. They (central government) are discriminating against non-BJP governments in states. They want to change the Constitution. There is a threat to democracy.”
In fact, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar, who is on a mission to unite the Opposition against the BJP ahead of the big battle in 2024, has already spoken to Kharge and Rahul Gandhi, impressing on the latter to support the AAP in its fight. However, after the meeting, general secretary KC Venugopal tweeted: “The Congress party has not taken any decision on the issue of the Ordinance brought against the SC judgement on the powers of the Government of NCT of Delhi . It will consult its state units & other like-minded parties on the same.”
In a veiled reference to the AAP, the general secretary added: “The party believes in the Rule of Law and at the same time does not condone unnecessary confrontation, political witch hunt and campaigns based on lies against political opponents by any political party.”
The Centre has six months to bring in the ordinance in the form of a bill in Parliament. It may not be in a tearing hurry to do so. However, pressure from allies, former allies and potential allies is mounting on the Congress party, particularly amidst talks of opposition unity ahead of 2024. On May 25 , as Kejriwal wound up the first leg of his campaign for support of opposition parties against the May 19 ordinance after visits to West Bengal and Maharashtra, he bagged the public support of JD(U), TMC, Shiv Sena (UBT), the Left parties and NCP. Now, it’s time to dial the Congress party. Once again.