In unity, opposition can survive

Mega rallies are often a measure of the resourcefulness of the persons organising them and should not be construed as indicators of popularity. As rallies go, the one organised on Wednesday by K Chandrashekar Rao, Chief Minister of Telangana and leader of the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS), was a grand success. Of course, leaders like Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Aam Aadmi Party Convenor Arvind Kejriwal claimed at the rally that the BJP Government at the Centre would not last a day longer after it completes the 400 days left in its five-year term. Nobody says the Narendra Modi Government is poised to return to power. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was not wide of the mark when he said the BJP is not the people’s first choice, though not in these exact words. What Mr Sen hinted at is the vulnerability of the Narendra Modi regime. While the Congress was the first choice of the people in the first few elections starting 1952, the party managed to win subsequent polls only because of the split in anti-Congress votes. Now the BJP is getting this advantage. In both 2014 and 2019, the party won only because the Opposition parties were pitted against one another. What Mr Sen said is not a figment of his imagination. The BJP did everything possible to retain Himachal Pradesh where Hindus constitute nearly 96% of the population, a majority belonging to what are called upper castes, considered the party’s traditional vote bank. Despite doing everything possible to please these voters, it lost by a decisive margin. Earlier, in Punjab, voters proved they had no love lost for the BJP. This year is crucial for the BJP as elections are to be held in nine states. Dates have been announced for three state elections in the Northeast. Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are four large states where the BJP and the Congress are in direct contest. The Congress would not have been able to win Himachal Pradesh if AAP had won at least 5% of the votes. If the BJP could retain Gujarat, it was in no small measure because the anti-BJP votes were divided among the Congress, AAP and other parties, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were able to cash in on “Gujarati pride”. Chandrashekar Rao has prime ministerial ambition, though one can’t be sure if it is based on a realistic assessment of the ground situation. There are other aspirants like the Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Bihar. Most of these parties have one thing in common, their fear of the Congress. But if they persist with their anti-Congressism, they will be playing into the hands of the BJP. Indian voters can never be taken for granted. There is no guarantee that if the BJP loses all nine states for which elections are held this year, it will also lose the 2024 Lok Sabha election. People vote differently in local, state and national elections. Whether the Opposition likes it or not, the Congress retains its status as the pre-eminent party after the BJP. As the saying goes, you can’t keep an elephant in a cowshed even if it has lost much weight. A tacit understanding with the party, if not an alliance, is necessary to keep the BJP away from returning to power. That seems to be a pipe-dream as Nitish Kumar, too, has his own ambitions, having realised that he has reached the dead-end of his career in Bihar. He wants to replicate what Mr Modi did when he shifted to the Centre while retaining his hold on Gujarat. Rahul Gandhi has through his Bharat Jodo Yatra proved he is no pushover, but he has a long way to go before he wins the confidence of the Opposition to be its consensus candidate. For all his popularity in Telangana, Mr Rao remains a regional satrap with little or no influence in the rest of the country. All this is known to Mr Modi, who has no rival of his stature for now.—- INAV




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Srinivasan K. Rangachary

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