UPA-3 ‘very much possible’ in 2024 polls, says ex-Congress leader Sibal

Sibal also said that the Congress' win in Karnataka had brought "great hope" for the Opposition.

New Delhi: Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal on Sunday said a UPA-3 government coming to power in 2024 is “very much possible” provided the Opposition parties have a commonality of purpose, an agenda reflecting it and are ready for “give and take” when fielding candidates to take on the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.

Sibal, a prominent Opposition voice and a former Congress leader, also said that instead of a common minimum programme, the Opposition parties should talk about a “new vision for India”.

His remarks come days before a crucial meeting of Opposition parties, hosted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna on June 23, where top Opposition leaders such as Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, former AICC chief Rahul Gandhi, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, among others, are set to deliberate on the way forward for forming an anti-BJP coalition for the Lok Sabha polls next year.

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In an interview with PTI, Sibal said the Congress’ win in Karnataka assembly polls was an example that the BJP can be defeated but cautioned against making sweeping statements for 2024, asserting that a Lok Sabha election is fought on different grounds altogether.

The former Union minister also insisted that the fight for 2024 was not against Prime Minister Narendra Modi but “against the ideology that he seeks to perpetuate”.

Sibal said UPA-3 could be a “reality” in 2024 provided the Opposition parties have a commonality of purpose, an agenda which reflects it and that they move forward with the mindset that there “needs to be a lot of give and take”.

“There needs to be give and take at the time of distribution of tickets in those states and constituencies where two or more political parties’ candidates are vying for the same seat. Once these three things are agreed upon, I think UPA-3 is very much possible,” Sibal told PTI over phone from New York.

Asked if it would be practically possible to put up joint candidates against the BJP when there are serious differences in Opposition ranks, Sibal said talk of differences was an “overstatement”, citing that in many of the states, certain political parties are truly dominant.

“For example the Congress is the real opposition to BJP in many states such as Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In these states there is no issue. Among states where there are non-Congress Opposition governments, such as in West Bengal we all know that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is the dominant partner. There will be a very few constituencies in West Bengal where there will be any kind of conflict,” he said.

Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, there will not be any problem as the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have fought together many times without any real conflict, Sibal noted.

“In a state like Telangana there may be a problem. In Andhra Pradesh, it is unlikely that there would be any Opposition coalition because of a possible three-way contest involving Jagan’s party (YSRCP), the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP),” he said.

“In Goa again there will be a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP. In Uttar Pradesh, the real Opposition is represented by the Samajwadi Party. The Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Congress at best will be junior partners. BSP’s Mayawati is not playing ball so there is no possibility of an alliance as she has publicly stated that she will be putting up candidates in all parliamentary constituencies. In Bihar, again Congress has no real presence. So I don’t think there is any problem on that front,” Sibal argued.

“Once the three conditionalities that I have put forward come through, seat sharing won’t present a real problem,” he said.

Sibal also said that the Congress’ win in Karnataka had brought “great hope” for the Opposition.

“But the fact of the matter is that the vote share of the BJP is intact and that also reflects they have a sizable section of support. I think Karnataka is an example that the BJP can be defeated but we should be a little more cautious in coming to conclusions of that nature. A Lok Sabha election is fought on different grounds altogether,” he said.

Hitting out at the prime minister over his recent remarks on political stability in recent years and its importance for the country, Sibal said he would like to question the assumption of the PM. “The kind of instability that we have had in the Modi years was not seen during the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) period,” he alleged.

“What is the stability Modi ji has provided? See what is happening in Manipur. This Central government, through tactics which to say the least are unsavoury and clearly corrupt, displaced elected governments. Destabilising elected governments does not provide stability in governance. This dispensation has sown the seeds of economic, political and social instability in the country,” he alleged.

Sibal claimed that UPA I and II governments provided a fair amount of political stability. Besides, real growth happened in those years, he added.

Asked if the Opposition parties should leave the leadership question to after the Lok Sabha polls or put up a joint PM candidate, he said it was too early to talk about these things.

“The parties when they get together know best how to move forward. This is not something I wish to comment on,” Sibal said.

On whether hammering out a common minimum programme should be a priority for Opposition parties, Sibal said, “To talk about a common minimum programme is a misnomer. What we should be talking about is an alternative agenda of the Opposition; a new vision to take India forward. My country requires a paradigm shift in the way India should move ahead and a new vision for India. Instead of talking of a common minimum programme, we should talk about a new vision for India.”

On Banerjee’s reported remarks that the Congress should not expect any help in the Lok Sabha polls in her state as long as it is aligned with the CPI(M), Sibal said, “I don’t think I should react to statements made by leaders of political parties. Leaders will be sitting together on June 23. I think it will take time to resolve such issues. Resolving them should not be a problem.”

Asked whether the Congress should be the centre of an anti-BJP front, Sibal said it was too early to talk about these things, but pointed out that the grand old party was the “only national party” in the Opposition besides the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which he noted had the status of a national party but was without a footprint outside a few states.

“The question as to who should take the lead, how this coalition of opposition parties needs to move ahead, is something that has to be addressed,” he said.

On whether Opposition unity is progressing in the right direction, Sibal said it was too early to tell but added that “the fact that key opposition parties are meeting on 23rd June is reflective of the desire of the Opposition to come together to face Modi in 2024”.

Sibal, who was a Union minister during the UPA 1 and UPA 2 governments, quit the Congress in May last year and was elected to the Rajya Sabha as an Independent member with the Samajwadi Party’s support.

He recently floated the non-electoral platform ‘Insaaf’, aimed at fighting injustice.

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