Cut to 2023, a similar display of opposition strength was once again on full display at Siddaramaiah’s swearing-in ceremony following the emphatic Congress victory in the May 10 Karnataka elections.
On Saturday, the who’s who of opposition parties gathered on one stage to send a strong message to the BJP.
With elections in Karnataka taking place exactly one year ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the state has become an ideal platform for opposition leaders to display their bonhomie and celebrate a non-BJP party’s victory with great enthusiasm. This was clear in both 2018 and 2023.
And as in 2018, some opposition leaders like Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar and NCP chief Sharad Pawar have already gathered to map out a minimum common agenda under which an anti-BJP united front can take shape.
Last time, it was West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao who conducted these talks.
However, in 2018, these efforts did not take shape and the contest ended up being the “PM Modi vs. the rest” battle. The BJP eventually came to power with an even larger mandate in 2019.
It remains to be seen whether the opposition’s efforts will translate into something more concrete this time around.
However, clear differences can already be seen between the two swearing-in ceremonies.
Leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal, who were present at HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony in 2018, were conspicuous by their absence in 2023.
Though an invitation was not sent to Akhilesh, Mayawati and Kejriwal, Mamata and Uddhav Thackeray were unable to attend the ceremony due to unknown reasons.
“Banerjee missing the event was something of a dampener, especially after his recent statement that in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, his party will support Congress where it is strong,” a Congress leader told PTI during the ceremony.
The absence of prominent opposition faces at the ceremony raised questions about whether an anti-BJP front could form in time for the 2024 election.
Nitish Kumar indicated that a meeting of the opposition parties will take place soon, most likely in Bihar as Mamata had suggested the same.
However, a big question mark remains as to who will attend said meeting and whether Congress will be on the table.
With another state in its kitty, Congress will now have a bargaining chip when it comes to being part of a larger opposition front.
Also, with the AAP now emerging as a direct challenger to Congress in many states, it seems the two sides might not like each other’s company in a single state.
With key state elections slated for later this year and the political landscape likely to evolve, efforts to assemble an opposition front will clearly require more than just a photo.