The country's constitution and democratic institutions can be saved from the BJP only if opposition parties unite against it in the Lok Sabha elections next year, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu told mediapersons after a meeting with Janata Dal (Secular) president HD Deve Gowda and his son, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, in Bengaluru today.
All the three leaders maintained that the immediate need was to cobble up a united opposition against the BJP, and a decision on the joint prime ministerial candidate can be taken later. The interaction had begun at 4 pm, soon after Mr Gowda received Mr Naidu -- the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh -- at his residence in South Bengaluru's Padmanabha Nagar.
"It is essential that the opposition unite to save democracy at a time when national institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bureau of Investigation have been compromised. The investigation agency, which is supposed to be autonomous, is now being used to keep the opposition under control," said Mr Naidu. He also criticised the Narendra Modi government's demonetisation initiative on its second anniversary, claiming that the "ill-advised" move had slowed down the nation's economy.
Mr Kumaraswamy, for his part, was confident of victory in the Lok Sabha polls. "1996 will repeat in 2019," he said, referring to the time when various regional parties managed to cobble up a United Front with Congress support and his father as the Prime Minister.
The success of the Congress-Janata Dal(Secular) alliance in the recent Karnataka bypolls has come as a booster shot for plans to present a united front against the BJP in the parliamentary elections. On Tuesday, Mr Kumaraswamy even said that Congress president Rahul Gandhi should lead the opposition charge in 2019.
However, the TDP president shrugged off a question on Mr Gandhi's likely candidature for prime ministership. "You are interested in the PM candidate and politics while I am interested in saving democracy. There is a conflict of interest here," he said, adding that picking a person for the top post was a decision for a later day.
Mr Kumaraswamy agreed that it was not a decision to be made in haste. "There are several leaders in various opposition parties who are capable of running the country properly. That can be discussed later -- the point now is to unite the opposition and save democracy," he said.
The JD(S) leader also announced a mega-meeting of opposition leaders, similar to the one witnessed at his swearing-in ceremony, in the coming months. "I plan to hold the event by December-end or January-start. All regional leaders, with the exception of BJP members, will be invited," he said.
Mr Naidu is currently involved in mediating between various parties in an effort to bring together a united opposition, taking up a role that has been vacant ever since Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar decided to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance last year. Earlier this month, he had formally joined hands with Mr Gandhi in New Delhi with the "main aim of defeating the BJP". The TDP president also met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, among others, in this connection recently.
The BJP has downplayed Mr Naidu's efforts, terming it as political tourism.