Mumbai: Opposition parties, intellectuals and social activists in Maharashtra will join hands on 26 January to hold a silent ‘Samvidhan Bachao’ (Save the Constitution) march against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the centre and in the state. The march has been called by the Samvidhan Bachao Andolan Samiti, which has reached out to all non-BJP political parties and other organizations as well as intellectuals and social activists.

Though billed as a non-political event, the march is likely to have representation from all major opposition parties including the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), National Conference (NC) and Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj Party.

Among those invited to attend the march, according to the organizers and members of the Samiti, are NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan, senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, NC leader Farooq Abdullah, farmers’ leader and MP Raju Shetty, whose party Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana left the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance last year.

Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti chief Hardik Patel, Dalit activist and Gujarat legislator Jignesh Mevani, linguist and social activist Ganesh Devi, and the kin of slain rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, have also been invited to participate in the protest.

The silent march, which will begin from the statue of Babasaheb Ambedkar near Mantralaya in South Mumbai and culminate at the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue at the Gateway of India, is likely to be a test of opposition solidarity against the BJP, said a Congress legislator who did not want to be named.

“More than the political parties, it is the presence of intellectuals and activists that will determine the effect of this exercise. It is difficult for politicians to appear non-political. But if intellectuals and activists share the space with us, it will give this protest some kind of respectability and nationwide visibility," said the Congress leader. He said opposition parties are increasingly coming round to the view that the BJP could be defeated if the political opposition teamed up with non-political opposition.

Of late in Maharashtra, there have been attempts by both Congress and the NCP to forge a united front against the BJP, especially on farm issues. Last year, these two parties were also joined by other smaller parties for a statewide Sangharsha Yatra (struggle march) to demand a blanket farm loan waiver.

A senior BJP leader, however,dismissed the Samvidhan Bachao rally as a “doomed bid" to create confusion in the minds of people. “Is India in such an extraordinary state of affairs that merits such protests? The Constitution is not under any threat. But these parties want to create an atmosphere of anarchy in the country which would confuse people," said the BJP leader, who did not want to be named.

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