Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have dumped the Congress for a possible alliance in the coming elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Against this backdrop, it is apt to say, if the Congress sacrifices its long-term interests for short-term gains, it is looking at a very bleak future. All the country over, it has been ceding space not to opposition parties but to its so-called allies, some of whom are former Congressmen. Its umbrella vote bank of backwards has gone to Yadavs in UP and Bihar, dalit vote bank to the BSP and so on. Yet unmindful of the grassroots-level reality, it is allying with the same parties for short-term electoral gains in election after election, and look, where it stands today. For the Congress to rejuvenate itself and project as a credible alternative, it has to do two things: one, permanently cast away the bondage to the “family”; two, unmindful of the short-term pain, the new and capable leader should work sincerely to get the party g(row)oing from grassroots level. Having said this, 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. 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 standing in the present scenario, who can lead the nation in 2019.
Be that as it may, the BJP should also 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, i.e. from UP by-election to Karnataka. The run-up to 2019 may still 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 still may 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–Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Bannerji, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, HD Devegowda, Sharad Pawar and others. Every party will, thus, strive hard to secure maximum number of seats for its own members and this does not augur well for the Opposition unity. And also today’s voter, more enlightened with 65 per cent under 30 years age, knows what happens to coalition governments. The Morarji government, the Charan Singh government, the VP Singh government and the Chandra Shekhar government–all collapsed without even completing half their tenure. More important, the components of this front will have to persuade the masses that they have a viable alternative action plan of better governance. The first test of this is 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 Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. Therefore, it is apt to say, in states, voters may vote for different parties, but for the Lok Sabha, the common man has full faith in the gigantic personality of Narendra Modi. Here lies a catch-22 position for Opposition parties.
By Deepak Kumar Rath