The split Opposition in the country is striving hard to chalk out a way to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s powerful Bharatiya Janata Party. But having said that, the potential for widening cracks in the Opposition unity is quite evident. The presence of TMC, Congress, CPM, SP, BSP, RJD, JD(S), NCP, etc, in the probable Opposition unity is a clear pointer to this possibility. The latest trigger in the ongoing political tussle between alliance partners in Karnataka was the open discontent expressed by former chief minister Siddaramaiah over his successor HD Kumaraswamy’s attempt to present a full-year budget. To counter this, a video went viral last week, in which Karnataka’s Chief Minister was seen wiping tears from his face with a towel, while addressing his party men at a meeting. He told them categorically that he was unhappy, heading the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government in Karnataka. In West Bengal, the TMC chief, who shares good relations with Sonia Gandhi, recently termed Rahul Gandhi as her junior. “What I can say about Rajiv and Sonia can’t be said about Rahul because he is much junior,” she commented. This clearly shows that she has her eyes set on the chair of Prime Minister. What is more, In UP, BSP’s national coordinator Jai Prakash Singh, at a party meet last week, said that it is high time Mayawati became Prime Minister of the country, as she is the only one who can take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Against this backdrop, it is apt to say that anyone can dream of becoming PM even if they don’t have a single seat in the Lok Sabha. It is worth mentioning here that BSP does not have a single seat in the Lok Sabha. In this perspective, it cannot be gainsaid that projecting a single party as the common enemy to forge Opposition unity has been problematic in India’s multi-party democracy since Independence. Remember Sanyukta Vidhayak Dal governments in the late 60s and Janata Party government in 1975–Both ran short-lived governments. Besides this fact, the Indian voters have tested the four years of good governance of Narendra Modi, his development plank and top-notch diplomacy. If one interprets the response of the Indian electorate towards a roaring Narendra Modi, then it is impossible to find a leader of his stature in the present scenario, who can lead the nation in 2019.
But the BJP should not forget that its election machine’s famed appetite to wrest state after state from Opposition parties may not have anticipated Opposition unity from one state to another. The defeat in Gorakhpur, citadel of Yogi Adityanath, and Kairana, was not only embarrassing but worrisome. The run-up to 2019 may well be witnessing a trend: signs of united Opposition. If the run-up to 2014 saw the BJP adding some allies like the Lok Jan Shakti Party and the Telugu Desam Party to the National Democratic Alliance ranks, the run-up to 2019 elections may well see an opposite trend: attempts of Opposition consolidation to keep the BJP out in key states. But one does not expect all parties uniting in 2019, as they have done and will do in state elections, simply because its outcome will decide who India’s Prime Minister could be. And for that most cherished gaddi, there are many aspirants–Mamata Bannerji, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, H. D. Devegowda, Sharad Pawar, Rahul Gandhi and others. Every party will thus try to secure maximum number of seats for its own members and this does not augur well for Opposition unity. And also today’s voter, more enlightened with 65 per cent under 30, knows what happens to coalition governments. Morarji government, Charan Singh government, VP Singh government and Chandra Shekhar government–all collapsed without even completing half their tenure. More important, the constituents of this front will have to convince the masses that they have a viable alternative action plan of better governance. The first test of this will be the coming state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Also the Opposition parties should not forget the fact that most of the people prefer to support Modi as Prime Minister. In the states, they may vote for other parties, but for the Lok Sabha, the common man has full faith in the towering personality of Narendra Modi. Are the Opposition parties listening?
By Deepak Kumar Rath