A democracy without a strong Opposition will degenerate into autocracy. It is Opposition’s eternal vigilance that keeps a democratic government on its toes and prevents it from deviating from the norms of governance. Whenever and wherever the Opposition becomes weak, the government shows signs of dictatorship. The recent developments in Indian politics point to the weakening of Opposition parties, tempting the ruling party at the Centre to thumb its nose at its opponents. It may not be long before the saffron party, encouraged by its unexpected performance in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, takes its slogan of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ (Congress-free India) to the next level of ‘Opposition-mukt’ Bharat. A ruling party should, in fact, welcome Opposition to work as check and balance to the government. On the other hand, an ‘opposition-free’ situation will ring the death knell of democracy.
What one witnessed in Goa and Manipur is a prelude to what is in store for the entire country. The BJP, which was a distant number two in both States, should have given the single largest party the opportunity to form the government. However, moved by greed for power, it flouted the existing practices and guidelines and went in for the kill. It is time the opposition parties realize the inherent dangers in the emerging scenario.
Analysis of the election result of Uttar Pradesh brings out some revealing facts. If the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress had forged a pre-poll alliance and put up single candidate against the BJP in each constituency, the latter’s tally would not have crossed three digits. Even if one presumes that alliances do not lead to total transfer of votes of each constituent, yet the three-party combine would have stopped the BJP in its track. The best example is Bihar where arch-rivals Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal, along with Congress, prevented a ‘sure’ BJP win.
The massive victory of BJP in the Hindi heartland proves the party’s successful caste arithmetic -- attracting upper castes and Other Backward Classes. The party’s tie-up with Apna Dal, majorly a party of Kurmis, and Nishad, a party of fishermen and those living in riverine areas, was a master stroke in garnering extra support to take it to the victory stand. In the opposite camp, votes of minorities and OBCs, besides upper castes, got fragmented between SP-Congress alliance and BSP. Hence even many Muslim-dominated seats went to the saffron kitty. While the BJP strategy was to unite vote-bank, the Opposition ‘succeeded’ in fragmenting it, digging its own grave.
The BJP tactic is clear – bring all those who can help form the government into its fold. In some States, many of its senior ministers are former Congress or other party leaders. The attempt is to stifle the Opposition by any means. It is time the Opposition sees through the game and gird up loins to work out a strategy to counter it. If ego clashes prevent Opposition unity, many more States will get to see leaders like Yogi Adityanath, known for spewing venom against the opponents, taking over the reins. The Opposition has to go beyond mere Modi-bashing; it has to work out a workable unity among them to take the bull by its horns.#(Published on 27th March 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 13)