Letter to a lame duck opposition

At a time when everyone is writing letters, mostly of course to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, giving advice from the comfort of their arm chairs, this columnist too is inspired. Not to write to Modi, but to write to all—repeat all—the opposition leaders,  not to give advice, certainly not, but to record the anger and the resentment that 69 per cent of India shares.

Dear Opposition Leaders,

Hope this letter finds you comfortable and happy in your non-response and complete inaction. Good food, plans for holidays, some family time with the children and grandchildren et al. We wish you well, and hope that you will retire/resign fast and in peace and leave the people of India to find their own way forward.

You, dear Opposition, have let India down. You might blame the BJP and the RSS—now you are no longer even doing that—but to be fair they did what they had always said they would.

You blame the cacophony of the corporates and the media for your debacle. That was just an add-on factor. The people defied that cacophony in Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, to vote for the regional parties that had managed to convince them that they believed in good governance, and actually had their interests at heart. In Uttar Pradesh, the wiliness of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the corrupt and criminal Samajwadi Party, the arrogance and inaccessibility of Mayawati combined to dent your vote-banks to a point where you were decimated.

 And instead of learning, you, Sir Yadav, are defending rapists now, and encouraging your son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, to be defiant about the terrible rape and hanging of two young Dalit girls by persons from your community in Badaun village.  Akhilesh Yadav, you should resign now, but you have not. You will only resign when the people retire you, as they will. But at what cost to India? It does not even bear thinking about.

In Bihar, the so-called messiah of secularism, who used to give such sermons and speeches, Ram Vilas Paswan, struck the first blow and crossed over to the BJP.  Then you, Lalu Prasad Yadav, emerged with the same old lanterns and matches or whatever is your symbol now, to say the same stuff, and make the same promises, and you actually believed—and made us believe—that you were getting the support.

You did not even know that the Yadavs had deserted you, such was your connect with your vote-bank.  Just as Mayawati had no idea that the Dalits had walked out of her suffocating embrace.  Janata Dal(U) leader Nitish Kumar had tried to get it all together with sections of the backward and the Mahadalits, but clearly his gradual movement away from the people, that we describe as arrogance, ate into his popularity, as did the BJP.

The Congress, the less said about you the better. You refused to recognise the wave of anger against you. You were so stuck in your ivory tower surrounded by servile flunkeys that you refused to even acknowledge that you were on your way out.

You did everything wrong—Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh—but even though you have been virtually decimated to the lowest number ever in independent India’s history you do not seem to have learnt any lessons. You cannot, because without the family, you are all individuals who basically dislike each other, and your party will disintegrate if Sonia Gandhi retires.

As for the Left what can we say? There is nothing left to say. You were never even really part of this election, your strategy just being limited to somehow save yourselves in West Bengal and Kerala. In the process you were decimated in Bengal, and you might draw solace from all this being part of a global phenomenon, but you know as well as we do, that you have lost your connection with the people.

As for the Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal has followed the Congress and the BJP in sheer authoritarianism. He is right, and no one else is. And when that happens, wrong decisions that become irrevocable are taken, and a party dies even before it was really born. Sad that such goodwill was frittered away in such a short span of time.

There was some hope that the debacle would encourage you all to come together as a broad coalition, seized of the situation and willing to lead us on the streets against injustice and coercion.  But even though the challenges are visible, you all are invisible.  Or just visible to tell us, as Mulayam Singh did, that ‘men will be men’ when it comes to rape.

I am not here to advice you and tell you what you should have done.  You are the leaders, the honourable Opposition of India, and it is for you to decide and to know and to what should be done.

 I only join the rest of civil society in hanging my head in dismay and shame, that we have an Opposition that is still functioning like a ruling party. And is unable to provide leadership at this very crucial juncture of Indian history.

You will say we will, tomorrow, wait and watch.  Yes some of you have told me that.  I say, there is no tomorrow, and if you could not get your act together yesterday, and are unable to do so even today, the morrow will come and go.

My only advice  then is to disappear as then we will not even need to hope.  A little movement from you — albeit for your own survival — has us suddenly pricking up our ears in hope that dies an unjust death.  This is taking a toll of our nerves.

So, I will end with a goodbye as one does not know whether we will see you ever again. Yes, of course you will be there in Parliament, occasionally making common cause over some bill or formulation. But will you ever be there on the streets, where you should be, as one big united force that alone can work today?

We all know the answer.

Seema Mustafa

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