The first round of elections is barely three weeks away. As things stand, Narendra Modi’s BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) appear better prepared and more organised than the Opposition. They have their alliances in place, the leadership question is settled — and they are dominating the narrative.
The Opposition appears disorganised and disparate, struggling to sew up its alliances. Leave alone ensuring a one-to-one fight against the BJP and optimising unity among the parties opposed to the BJP, Modi’s opponents appear intent on maximising their strengths.
Will another round of lotuses bloom? The NDA has its alliances in place — and it's dominating the narrative. (Source: Reuters)
Modi and Shah have displayed greater clarity of purpose and a clearer objective — their primary objective is to ensure that Narendra Modi wins a second term in office, and if that means conceding more seats to allies, so be it. A case in point is Bihar, where the BJP is contesting four seats less than 2014. In UP, the BJP swallowed its pride and managed to mollify Anupriya Patel and Om Prakash Rajbhar, despite all the bad blood of the past couple of months. In Maharashtra, till a couple of weeks back, the BJP and Shiv Sena were at war with each other — but keeping their primary objective in mind, the BJP walked the distance to ensure a seat-sharing alliance with the Sena.
The contrast in the Opposition’s approach couldn’t be starker.
Far from ensuring a nation-wide grand alliance, they have not even been able to come up with their seat-sharing arrangement at the state level. True, the Congress has an alliance in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka — but in states like UP (80 seats), Bihar (40), West Bengal (42) and Delhi (7) — that together account for 167 Lok Sabha seats — the Opposition is a divided house.
In Bihar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress announced their intention to enter an alliance six months ago. Last week, the RJD agreed to give 11 seats to the Congress — but then changed its mind. Predictably, the Congress protested, and at one stage, it appeared the alliance would fall apart.
Finally, the Congress agreed to give up three seats to the alliance on course.
Divided, they stand? The Opposition has failed to present itself as a strongly well-knit force against the BJP-led NDA. (Source: PTI)
In neighbouring West Bengal, the situation is worse. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has decided against having any pre-poll alliance and will contest all the seats.
What is worse is that the Left and the Congress too have failed to work out a seat-sharing arrangement, thereby making it a four-cornered contest in the state. In Uttar Pradesh, the BSP shut the door even on a tactical alliance between the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-RLD alliance and the Congress, thereby making it a three-cornered contest.
The inability, or the refusal, of the Opposition to reach an agreement defies not just logic but common sense as well.
According to some number crunchers in UP, the SP-BSP-RLD alliance is expected to bring the BJP tally down from 71 to 33. In the event of an alliance with the Congress, the BJP’s tally would have been reduced to 19. Apparently upset with the Congress for not allying with it in Madhya Pradesh, the BSP hit back by blocking all attempts to work out even a tactical alliance in UP.
It reportedly spurned last-minute attempts even by Sonia Gandhi to find a way out.
The situation in Delhi is no better.
Initially, the Congress was unable to make up its mind on whether or not to ally with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal mooted the idea — but then, the Congress played hardball with Sheila Dikshit putting her foot down. Eventually, following the intervention of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) patriarch Sharad Pawar, the Congress leadership changed its mind and began exploring the possibility of a tie-up.
However, this time round, the AAP upped the ante, demanding seats in Haryana and Punjab in lieu of an alliance in the capital.
Watching with interest: PM Modi could well return to power simply because of the confusion in the Opposition camp. (Source: Reuters)
For now, the NDA appears to be sitting pretty. The Opposition, on the other hand, is a house divided.
It lacks leaders with vision and foresight who are willing to subsume their personal ambitions for a larger goal. If the current trend continues, the Narendra Modi-led government will be the first non-Congress government to win a second consecutive term in office, and the Opposition will have no one to blame — but itself.