- The fear of a rising Modi has so gripped the Opposition that the SP and the BSP are beginning to work together.
- In Orissa, BJP’s recent successes in the local bodies elections have already exposed the deep fault-lines in Naveen Patnaik’s shaky facade.
It may be already hurtling towards a patchwork unity --- only to break up in pieces soon afterwards when voters once again spurn it. The search for an instant solution to end its growing misery has seen the hitherto bitter enemies cooperate with one another both inside and outside Parliament.
The fear of a rising Modi, who has established a bond with the ordinary voters, has so gripped the Opposition that the Samajwadi Party and the BSP are beginning to work together. Mamata Banerjee would be ready to shed her antipathy towards the Left, which is fast losing ground to a more assertive BJP, to stitch together a seat-sharing arrangement for the sake of checkmating Modi at the national level.
In Orissa, BJP’s recent successes in the local bodies elections have already exposed the deep fault-lines in Naveen Patnaik’s shaky facade. He may consider tying up with the Congress to repulse the Modi threat.
As for the Gandhis, they cannot even begin to identify themselves with the poor before they are dismissed as charlatans, staking claim to power on the basis of pedigree.
Laloos and Mayawatis and Akhilesh Yadavs come from the same socio-economic milieu as Modi but they were sucked into the corrupt and criminal political order while Modi has managed to stay untainted. Communists are too insignificant to matter in a national election.
The battle for India is always fought in the Hindi heartland, with the South and the North-East virtually going along with whoever emerges the winner in Delhi. As of now, the rival DMKs will compete to sup with Modi.
So will the few Congress Chief Ministers who owe their jobs to their own popularity rather than to the Gandhis. And Karnataka is all set to fall in the lap of the BJP regardless of the certain alliance between the Congress and the JD(S) in the coming Assembly poll.
But such opportunistic combinations without any programmatic unity, without an actual meeting of hearts and minds, can prove counterproductive.
The argument that the Bihar Mahagathbandhan had stopped the Modi juggernaut fails to appreciate the fact that the BJP in the State was never a major force, its core support base having been hived off into a separate Jharkhand State. In the event, contrary to the popular impression the BJP did well in the November 2015 Assembly poll. The truism that in electoral politics that two plus two do not necessarily make four --- and can, in fact, add up to three or even less --- is as relevant today as it was back in 1971.
No lessons seem to have been learned from that fiasco of a haphazard gang-up against a common enemy. At that time, despite the four-party seat-sharing pact an acendant Indira Gandhi had extinguished the challenge most convincingly. Leaders of the four parties, who were beaten fairly and squarely by Indira Gandhi’s `Garibi Hatao’ campaign, were all men of stature. In comparison, there is now an abject poverty of talent on the Opposition benches.
In sharp contrast, Indira Gandhi’s claim to fame till that watershed Lok Sabha poll was that she was born a Nehru. She had also profited from entering into matrimony with a Gandy ( Parsi for liquor trader) who became a Gandhi.
The most formidable Opposition group at that time was the Jana Sangh, the previous avatar of the BJP. Balraj Madhok, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Nanaji Deshmukh and L K Advani, all men of stature, had dedicated their lives to the building of a credible Opposition against all the odds.
The trouble is that the current Opposition neither has men and women of talent who invoke popular respect. Nor does it have a charismatic leader a la Indira Gandhi. Now, Modi might lack the stature of a Vajpayee or a Morarji Desai, but in the charisma department, there is no doubt that nobody in the political firmament comes anywhere near him. Indeed, his record testifies fully that he has easily surpassed the best the Jana Sangh- BJP could achieve in terms of electoral success in the Vajpayee-Advani era.
But Modi hasn’t had to compete for votes against a Nehru- or an Indira-led Congress. Thanks to the sharp erosion in the appeal of the controlling family of the Congress and the rise of the vote-cutting regional groups, the task of BJP, virtually the new Congress, had made Modi’s task of sweeping elections that much more easier.
Modi has been able to notch stupendous success by openly embracing populism and by directly reaching out to the poor, something which other BJP leaders had pointedly refrained from doing. Modi appeals to the poor and the underprivileged, who by sheer default had hitherto rooted for the Congress and other regional outfits. The core Brahmin-Bania-middle-class constituency of the Jana Sangh-BJP even if unhappy with stringent measures meant to ensure tax honesty had perforce stayed loyal while the accretion of new voters from the economically weaker sections facilitated the huge BJP win.
Which brings us to the original assertion about the mounting troubles of the Opposition. Had Modi not roped in the poor and the weak, there was every likelihood of the Opposition getting the better of him in the coming electoral battles. But Modi is further bolstered by intensive organisational preparedness undertaken by a demanding party boss, Amit Shah. The duo is unlikely to loosen its grip on the newly acquired constituency of the weaker sections.
The point is that Modi holds all the aces in his hand right now. He sets the agenda, determines the popular narrative and outfoxes the Opposition at every step by marketing his government as pro-poor and pro-reforms. The impending implementation of GST, a slew of stringent steps to force the rich to become honest taxpayers, targeted subsidy-delivery, etc. are all steps meant to make the Modi Government more efficient, more popular. Under such circumstances, an Opposition bereft of a clever idea, an appealing programme, and, above all, an imaginative leader with a strong connect with the people can hardly expect to meet the Modi challenge now or in the near future.
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When Shah ticked off a media baron
BJP President Amit Shah is known to say it as it is. He does not hold back. Not long ago he had ticked off a recalcitrant party member keen on ministership with these words: ‘ Look, if you think your tantrums will get you ministership, you are wrong… it will only cause your further marginalisation.’
Last week, apparently, he ticked off a media baron whose group had openly taken sides in the recent UP Assembly poll. Grateful for the allotment of a large plot of land in a prime location for a university, the newspaper group is said to have gone out on a limb, rooting for the SP-Congress combine. So, at the first available opportunity, Shah rubbed the media baron’s nose in the dirt.
It so happened that the group had already sent out invites to the corporate biggies for the annual function at which it expected to showcase the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and other such influential people. When the media owner met Shah on the eve of the proposed event, the latter did not hold back, letting him know what he thought of his group and its wonted editorial harlotry.
The meeting ended abruptly. And though they felt obliged to go ahead with the function as scheduled, neither Modi nor any top minister put in an appearance. As a result, even the big names in the business world chose to give the function the slip.
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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is on record, wanting to end post-retirement sinecures for judges on the ground that it might colour their judicial work months before retirement.
Well, it turns out that a major Opposition group might have lured a high judicial dignitary who was in daily confrontation with the Government months before his retirement with the promise of vice-presidentship.
Though it was unclear how the Opposition could expect to have its nominee to succeed Hamid Ansari when the latter completes his second five-year term in few months, there was no bar on building castles in the air. The said dignitary has had close family ties with the Opposition group in question, but even he could not be unaware of the constitution of the electoral college for the vice-president’s poll, could he?
Virendra Kapoor is a Delhi-based journalist. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Asianet Newsable
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 7:00 PM IST