The non-BJP opposition is becoming increasingly vary if their single point agenda of “Modi Hatao” can send the BJP led NDA government packing in next year’s general elections. This is particularly so with the National Executive of the Lotus party at its meeting recently drawing attention to the mood being exuberant and brimming with confidence.
Is that enough for Modi to secure a second successive term as the Head of Government at the Centre? One is compelled to draw attention to the “India Shining” campaign in the wake of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s stewardship of the country in 2004, the saffron brigade and its allies in the NDA came a cropper. That was the turning point for the UPA with the Congress in the vanguard regaining power and holding fort on the majestic Raisina Hill in the national capital for two terms spread over a decade.
Thereafter, the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi came to the forefront who single handedly secured a majority for the BJP in the Lok Sabha for the first time since the party was formed in 1980. Along with its allies, the NDA crossed the rubicon of 300 and finished with a comfortable tally of 340 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. Considering the performance of his government, Modi firmly believes the people of this country should give him, and in turn the NDA, a second term at the Centre after having kept the Congress, the oldest political entity, in the saddle for more than five decades.
Be that as it may, regional satraps like BSP supremo Mayawati has already taken to grandstanding to secure her pound of flesh when it comes to thrashing out an electoral understanding. It is evident she is seeking a better bargain from the anti-BJP front. This assumes importance in the wake of the upcoming assembly election later this year in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh considered the semi-final before the Lok Sabha poll eight months later. She blamed the BJP and the Congress equally for the prices of petrol and diesel touching an all time high. Her outburst has not only caught the Congress unawares but got them thinking if the combined fight against the BJP is aimed at garnering the maximum seats for the BSP not only in UP but in other states as well where it has a presence.
The BSP, while supporting the bandh against the spiralling prices of petrol and diesel to record levels, was conspicuously absent at the demonstration in the national capital. While alluding to remaining equidistant from the Congress and the BJP, Mayawati lambasted the Lotus party for adopting the same faulty economic policies as evidenced during the Congress led UPA regime leading to its rout in the 2014 general elections. The party which was in the forefront of the Independence struggle finished with its lowest tally of 44 seats in the Lok Sabha. For now, Modi has consolidated his position as there is hardly any leader in the opposition to challenge him. There is little doubt about his acceptability among large sections of the people.
The lesson to be learnt from the last general elections five years back is that a disunited, divided and fragmented opposition cannot provide an effective political challenge. It has become necessary for all the opposition parties to come together particularly for next year’s general elections to avoid conflicts at the state or sub-regional levels.
Only such an approach can facilitate an opposition alliance. Then, it is for the grouping to agree on minimum issues for knitting them together. Alternative policies must necessary mean that the opposition’s programmes must be different. The opposition must steer clear of making next year’s general elections revolve around the personality of Modi. If that happens, the prime minister will win hands down. A splintered opposition means playing into the hands of Modi.
The opposition should pinpoint the Herculean blunders of the Modi government and the plight of the common man being made worse and compounded by social and economic issues. The job at hand is formidable. Simultaneously, the BJP is making efforts to enlarge its presence in the country’s South in a bid to offset the losses in the Hindi belt, particularly in the general elections. Nevertheless, the Lotus party chief Amit Shah declared they will contest all the 119 seats in the Telengana assembly where elections are due by the end of this year.
Andhra Pradesh, the newly formed Telengana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala and the lone Union Territory of Puducherry in the South has a tally of 129 seats in the Lok Sabha. Despite emerging as the single largest party in Karnataka in the assembly elections held earlier this year in May, the Lotus party failed to form the government in Bengaluru. This is the only state in the South where the BJP has been in power for one term.
T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator.