During the high-voltage election campaign early in 2014, when top BJP leaders thundered and promised to usher in a Congress-mukt Bharat, ridding India of all corruption and misgovernance of decades of Congress rule, many dismissed it as hyperbolic rhetoric not to be taken literally.
But when the Narendra Modi-led BJP won 282 seats in Parliament, the first time a single party received majority in 30 years, the rhetoric started metamorphosing into high probability. A self-proclaimed outsider in Lutyen’s Delhi, Modi took over the reins of the central government with the sure-footed confidence of a shrewd politician, a successful chief minister and a consummate diplomat. A 24/7 workaholic PM, he unleashed a slew of pro-people schemes and shook the administrative machinery out of lethargy.
With “Modi fever” rising to a crescendo during the first six months, his juggernaut looked unstoppable. But in February 2015, the AAP, born out of the anticorruption agitation of Anna Hazare and headed by maverick RTI activist-turned politician Arvind Kejriwal, inflicted a humiliating defeat on the BJP, garnering 67 out of 70 Delhi Assembly seats.
If this wasn’t enough, the Mahagathbandhan, comprising RJD, JD(U) and Congress, gave another body blow to the BJP in the Bihar state elections in July 2015. Understandably, political pundits got busy theorising the causes of the BJP’s crushing defeat in Bihar and predicting similar victories for the Mahagathbandhan in other states.
But that was easier said than done. The Mahagathbandhan didn’t reflect the convergence of ideological, political, social, economic and strategic thinking; but was purely a marriage of convenience whose sole objective was to prevent the BJP from returning to power in Bihar. Sooner than later, its inherent contradictions, clash of egos, absence of an all embracing vision and lack of trust were going to bring it down like a house of cards.
The BJP’s resounding victory in UP where it not only netted 320 seats, but totally decimated the BSP and SP.
While the enormity of the shift of gravity of power in UP and some other states hasn’t wholly sunken in the Congress, SP and BSP yet, the BJP chariot under Modi and Amit Shah is marching on; it looks menacingly capable of winning majority seats in all panchayats and the Parliament, and thus make India Congress-mukt in 2019! But is that what the country needs?
An alert, strong, purposeful and constructive Opposition is essential for democracy. But it’s not the duty of the ruling dispensation to build such an Opposition. It’s the responsibility of the Opposition parties and their leaders to bridge differences, overcome ego clashes, find common ground, at least on issues of national importance, agree on a practical, doable strategy which will keep the Govt on its toes by raising searching questions legitimately and robustly and not allow it to steamroll its decisions without detailed discussions in Parliament.
They must offer a counter-narrative that will attract and resonate with people on account of its sound, convincing and persuasive arguments and, at the time of elections, might motivate voters to look at the Opposition as a viable option and give it another chance to govern.
But where is the formidable Opposition today? It has become a myth. Opposition unity is becoming an elusive mirage. Stronger the prospects of Modi returning to power with a bigger majority and forming governments in most states, more Opposition leaders will junk their parties and ride along with the BJP.
Modi is the strongest PM of India since Independence; unchallenged in his party and the government. He works proactively with a Messianic zeal on so many fronts; it’s impossible to keep a track of the new policy initiatives he takes. He and his media-savvy Cabinet colleagues are masters par excellence in blowing their trumpets and creating an unmistakable buzz about their achievements.
Being an extraordinary communicator, Modi can hold forth with CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies, world leaders at global summits and his counterparts in bilateral summits. He connects with ordinary people with the same ease and largely succeeds in convincing them that if they support him, their lives will be transformed for the better.
His detractors denounce him as a dream merchant who lures the masses with countless colourful dreams most of which remain unfulfilled. Thanks to his oratorical and communication brilliance, people believe him and think he stands for them. That is what he did in his explanation of demonetisation to the public.
Regrettably, the entire Opposition has no leader of Modi’s stature!
First, all parties should compulsorily retire their discredited leaders, prop up younger, energetic, articulate, untainted and inspired leaders who will spend the next five years connecting with people all over India and winning back their trust with meaningful services rather than wasting time in finding faults with Modi and praying for him to trip.
In spite of a series of setbacks and uninspiring leadership and the shadow of corruption still lingering, the Congress is the only party which can become a nucleus of the Opposition provided it can jettison its failed leadership.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)