A broad pre-poll alliance is vital if the Opposition is to have a chance in 2019.
Countdown for the BJP has begun
On April 6, BJP leader Amit Shah in his sheer political pomposity compared the entire Opposition to cats and dogs. And it virtually rained “cats & dogs” electorally, completely wiping off the BJP in various bypolls.
Two prominent questions have started dominating the discussion forums. First, is it going to be Narendra Modi vs the rest in 2019? Second, is Opposition unity vital to defeat the BJP in 2019? But there is another important question that needs to be answered, and that is will the BJP’s anti-people, anti-farmer, anti-women and anti-youth policies and betrayal of their own electoral promises lead to its defeat in the people’s court in 2019?
One just needs to look at the results of the byelections held since 2014 to understand that the countdown for the BJP began much earlier than was anticipated by political pundits. In total, there have been 27 Lok Sabha bypolls, out of which the BJP lost 22, while the Congress won four with thumping majority in states where there was a direct contest between these two. Even the usual logic that state bypolls are won by the party in power did not work for the BJP as they lost despite being in government in various states, including Rajasthan, UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. In fact, the BJP is facing double incumbency in these states — non-performance by the Modi government at the Centre and non-performance of the respective state governments. The reason for these defeats is that people have started realising that “all that glitters is not gold” when it comes to PM Modi and his event management style of politics.
Modi vs the rest in 2019 is merely a catchy hypothetical question created by the media to showcase Mr Modi as the Hercules of the electoral battlefield.
The NDA consists of the BJP and 29 parties, and if you factor in state alliances then it is BJP +47 parties against the UPA, which broadly consists of the Congress+17 parties. Thus it is NDA vs Team UPA contest, which has a canvass much bigger than Mr Modi’s personality.
As the soul of India is bleeding now, the time has come for all the like-minded parties to come together, which they have broadly for the sake of protecting the nation from the politics of hate.
So yes, Opposition unity is imperative to defeat the NDA, that has started treating India like a private limited company, cheating its shareholders and depriving them of dividends. The writing on the wall is clear that with the Congress as the fulcrum, the arithmetic of Opposition unity combined with the chemistry of voters will completely evaporate the BJP in 2019.
The writer is a Supreme Court lawyer and national media panellist, Indian National Congress
Regional parties’ tieup is a chimera
It is too early to analyse the shape and strength of the tieup of regional parties, which is being projected to fight the NDA in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. At present it looks a chimera or a hydra-headed monster ,very difficult to name or define.
The collective desperation and frustration of the Congress and anti-BJP parties in the Opposition is understandable. The BJP, now ruling in nearly two dozen states having almost three fourths of India’s population, has emerged as predominant political force and its leader Narendra Modi is unassailable, as is seen by the results of over a dozen state elections after 2014, where the Congress has been humbled repeatedly. Regional parties like the BSP, SP and the CPI(M) also suffered stunning defeats at the hands of the BJP. This forced all these parties to put up common candidates against the BJP in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana bypolls in UP. The experiment has rekindled hope in the anti-BJP camp that a united Opposition can make the going tough for the BJP in the 2019 general election.
But it is not that simple an arithmetic. It is easier to make adjustments at the local level as issues are localised. But in the general election it is the chemistry and atmospheric that work better. Parties have to work out seat-sharing, they have to have an agenda for governance, and also have to declare a leader who is to rule the country after the elections.
Can the Opposition present a credible alternative to the NDA and Mr Modi?
The strength of the regional parties is confined to their respective states. Different regional parties don’t complement each other. The Congress is an adversary to many regional parties — the BJD in Orissa, the CPI(M) in Kerala, the TRS in Telangana and the TDP in Andhra. Further, the Congress has lost its relevance as a national party for others to join under its tag, and it seems unlikely that regional satraps senior to Congress president Rahul Gandhi will form a common front.
Moreover, many regional parties are BJP allies. So far the NDA has functioned as a cohesive unit and with some nimble-footed strategy it can expand further, taking in the AIADMK, TRS, TDP and Jagan Mohan Reddy’s party, as also the regional parties in the Northeast. In a national election, people vote for a stable government and a dependable leader. There is no alternative to the BJP and Mr Modi for the people to choose. A ragtag tieup might work at the state level, but at national level it is a tall order. The BJP has nothing to fear as long as the charismatic appeal of the Prime Minister is intact.
The writer is a former national convenor of the BJP intellectual cell, and co-convenor of the BJP national training programme and publication department