United Opposition will have to do more than just Modi-bashing to oust BJP in 2019
It is going to be an exciting year politically and the election seems to be closer than what it appeared to be sometime back.
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There is a sudden excitement in the air about the coming general elections in 2019. Sometime ago, it seemed like a no contest with the BJP coasting to an easy victory against a divided and directionless opposition. That seems to be changing with rapid political changes.
The change started with the Gujarat elections. The Congress put up a spirited challenge in the home state of the PM. The PM had to address 45 public meetings in Gujarat to ward off the Congress challenge. It was not a convincing victory by any chance and the BJP romped home because of the urban centres while the Congress was ahead in rural Gujarat. The farmer disenchantment which started some time back had begun to take its toll.
No longer the most formidable.
Another major challenge was the coming together of two strong regional parties of Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Their unity in fighting elections was always going to pose a strong challenge to BJP. They managed to win two prestigious bypolls of Gorakhpur and Phulpur which were the constituencies of the chief minister and the deputy chief minister. This was a strong signal to the Opposition that they had to unite to survive.
A little later the BJP pulled off a spectacular victory in Tripura and managed to keep the Congress out of power in Meghalaya. This was followed a little later by the Karnataka elections. The BJP did manage to emerge as the single largest party, but failed to get an absolute majority. Despite extensive campaigning by the prime minister, the party was not able to get even 110 seats it had won in 2008 under Rajnath Singh as the BJP president. The election results according to me was just old wine in new bottle. The pattern was just normal anti-incumbency of Karnataka. The Opposition this time acted fast and united to prevent the BJP from forming a government.
The last major developments were the bypolls yesterday where a united Opposition was able to trounce the BJP in most of the constituencies. The reasons for BJP losing are both the index of Opposition unity and declining support for BJP. This double impact can cause huge erosion in its seat share.
What now? Let us start with BJP. The party has to urgently look at the rural problems and the farmer disenchantment seriously. Its support in rural areas is declining and this could turn out to a major problem in the coming elections. The government will have to reduce its taxes on petrol and diesel and make them more reasonable. Another important area it will have to concentrate on will be improving relations with its own allies and scouting for new allies. The TDP has already left the NDA camp and Shiv Sena is restless. It is now certain that BJP will need regional allies in UP and Bihar. Nitish Kumar seems to be a shadow of his former self and getting little support from the Centre. These two states send 119 members to Parliament.
The Opposition has been playing its cards well. It seems to be building up a unified front. But they have to come out with a positive programme and articulate their vision for India. Simply criticising the PM will not help. They are presently looked upon as a motley crowd who have come together to oust the PM and ensure their survival. They have to remember that this is a national election and people will vote accordingly.
I am reminded of an article by the famous columnist Busybee. He wrote about the public meetings of Pandit Nehru. Panditji would talk about the five year plans of the government wherein dams and industries were being erected, the IITs and the IIMs being put up, the space programme of the government and how India was finding its rightful place in the world by being non aligned.
Standing together, but for how long?
Busybee writes that most people in the crowd did not understand a single word of what Panditji was saying but they would cheer wildly and happy that India was progressing and proud of their country’s achievements. The Opposition has to remember that this is a national election and concentrate on national issues and run a positive campaign.
The next year is going to be intensely political. We have elections in Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. The elections are going to be close and the BJP is the incumbent government in three of the four states going to the polls. All in all it is going to be an exciting year politically and the election appears to be closer than what it appeared to be sometime back.
Let us hope that it throws up a proper verdict. It does not matter even if it is a coalition government based on a positive programme. Leave the rest to the voters who have never let India down.