Every time there is a realignment of opposition forces at the national level, the legacy of socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia, known as the architect of coalition politics in India, is likely to be invoked. In 1967, after the Congress faced unprecedented losses in general elections and was defeated in assembly elections in several states for the first time, Lohia led the formation of the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal, an anti-Congress coalition comprising the Bharatiya Kranti Dal, the Samyukta Socialist Party, the Praja Socialist Party and the Jana Sangh (precursor of the BJP). This coalition of legislators, including those from regional parties and defectors from the Congress, formed governments in many states. The era of coalition politics, which thus began with the BJP’s predecessor allying with parties with which it shared little except rivalry with the Congress, has come full circle with the RSS-affiliated party now in a position of dominance over national politics almost similar to what the 1967 coalition was ranged against. On the other side now are a disparate set of regional parties and a much-diminished Congress.
Recently, former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who joined the TMC in March, convened a meeting at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in Delhi on behalf of the Rashtra Manch—a political platform Sinha co-founded in 2018. In attendance were a motley crew of politicians, lawyers and other eminent personalities. It sparked discussions on a broad coalition against the ruling BJP in the offing, though the organisers, including Sinha, didn’t want to attach any political significance to the meeting. “There was no discussion about the formation of a third front,” says NCP leader Majeed Memon, who attended the meeting. “We discussed the appalling state of the economy, anti-people policies of the BJP government, subversion of constitutional institutions….”