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United BJP, Splintered Opposition

United BJP, Splintered Opposition

In electoral politics, nothing matters more than numbers. It is actually a game of numbers. No one knows this better than Narendra Modi. With roughly one-third of the votes polled in 2014, his party was able to win a simple majority on its own in Parliament. It was of little consequence that two-thirds of the voters voted against him. One must give even the devil its due. Modi has been able to keep almost all his allies with him in the ongoing election. The Shiv Sena might have every now and then made fun of Modi’s pointless journeys to the far corners of the world and lambasted him for his policies emanating from the Pulwama attack but it has eventually fallen in line in Maharashtra.

Modi might not like to see the face of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar but he has already sewed up an understanding with him. Nobody had heard the name 'National Democratic Alliance' during the last five years as Modi considered his government an out and out BJP government, but the arrangement remains intact whether it is Bihar or Maharashtra or Punjab.

The manner in which Modi has discarded stalwarts like Lal Krishna Advani shows that he remains what he has all along been, a tinpot dictator who would not consult the Reserve Bank before high-denomination currency notes are banned and overlook the defence ministry when it comes to obliging his friend Anil Ambani, who would have gone to jail but for his brother’s timely help, with a slice of the Rafale cake. A leopard cannot change its spots. Nor can Modi. It is, therefore, no surprise that when a BJP MP like Sakshi Maharaj says that if Modi wins this election, there will be no election in 2024, it does not cause any surprise. Modi’s Cabinet was filled with people  who cared two hoots for the Constitution. Once they have the requisite majority in both Houses of Parliament, they would find it easy to amend the Constitution and impose their will on the nation. 

Given the readiness some Supreme Court and High Court judges have shown to uphold Hindutva, rather than the Constitution of which they are just a creature, it is puerile to expect that the court would not allow the basic structure of the Constitution to be tampered with. Allowance must be made for the fact that when a CBI judge was done away with, they preferred to look the other way. Look at how the killers of Gujarat have been escaping the clutches of law while a bold police officer who made the mistake of telling the truth is being hounded in the same state. Worse, the Swami who made the famous confession that he and his gang planted a bomb that killed several innocent persons in a Pakistan-bound train has been let off as there was no evidence against him.

Pranesh was a Malayali Nair boy who made the mistake of falling in love and marrying a Muslim girl. He was returning with his family from Nooranand in Kerala to Gujarat when he received a call from a top police officer. Hours later, his body was found on the road along with that of a girl whose father had died while working for Pranesh and entrusted her responsibility to him. It was portrayed as an encounter killing. All the encounter specialists are being released and honoured with. A fellow who boasted about killing Muslims and was secretly taped has been set free. What a tragedy, the law has been favouring the lawless!

Ever since the Modi government began thumbing its nose at Constitutionalism, one slogan that was heard was about putting up a united fight against him. The Opposition has been claiming that it stood united in facing the Modi challenge. What is the situation now? Elections are now knocking on the doors with only a few weeks left for the actual polling. What is the situation on the ground?

Take the case of Delhi where there are seven Lok Sabha constituencies which the BJP won last time. Everyone knows that in a three-cornered contest, the BJP would win all the seven seats. The Aam Aadmi Party should remember that it no longer enjoys the support it once enjoyed. It should know what happened in Punjab. The Congress has brought back Sheila Dixit to head the party in Delhi. That the party was compelled to bring back a person who had been rejected lock, stock and barrel by the Delhi electorate less than five years ago is a sad commentary on its sad state of affairs. If it thinks that it can win a few seats on its own, it can be said to live in a fool’s paradise.

What is practical is for both the Congress and the AAP to contest three seats each and field an independent candidate like Yeshwant Sinha or Shatrughan Sinha for the seventh seat. The combination will surely be able to defeat the BJP roundly in the state. The Congress is, again, mistaken if it thinks that its success in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh can be repeated in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. All those three states have always been an example of the two-party system. Other than the BJP and the Congress, no other party has any roots in the three states. At one time, the Communists had a presence in Bhopal and Indore but they are nowhere now. That is not the case in Bihar where the Congress cannot win any seat on its own. It would have been utterly foolish if it had insisted on getting 10 seats in the state. The fact of the matter is that the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Laloo Prasad can win without the Congress but the latter cannot win a single seat without the support of the RJD. Thank God, the realisation had dawned on the Congress to accept the nine seats the RJD offered.

It must be said to the credit of Tejaswi Yadav that he was magnanimous in giving the Congress nine seats beside the promised seat in the next Rajya Sabha election. The coming together of the Grand Alliance led by the RJD will help stop the BJP caravan in the same way Laloo Yadav was able to stop Advani’s Rath Yatra in the run-up to the eventual demolition of the Babri Masjid. Bihar is not Uttar Pradesh. In 2014, Modi was able to win mainly because of the huge support he received in Uttar Pradesh which accounts for about one-sixth of the total seats in the Lok Sabha. Remember that the Bahujan Samaj Party could not win a single seat.

True, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP have been able to come together. True, the Congress will do better in the election, particularly after the arrival of Priyanka Gandhi on the campaign front. But will it be able to emerge the victor in a three-cornered contest?

In all the by-elections held since Aditya Nath became the Chief Minister, the BJP was the loser. This was because the Opposition had come together against the BJP. That is no longer the situation there. The Congress would be playing into the hands of the BJP if it does not sew up an Alliance with the SP and the BSP. On their part, they should let the Congress have a reasonable number of seats in the state. In short, Opposition unity is the need of the hour in UP.

In Odisha, the BJP is expected to do well. This is because of the three-cornered contest that has become a certainty. If the Congress is able to reach an understanding with the ruling party there, it will be able to keep the BJP at bay.  Another state where the BJP has huge hopes is West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee is certainly in a position to defend her fortress and even emerge as the consensus candidate for the post of Prime Minister. It may not, therefore, matter whether the Congress and the Left Front were not able to join hands in West Bengal. They have only themselves to blame if they have become caricatures of their former selves and are today as expendable as the banned Rs 1000 notes.

In any electoral contest, it is the perception that matters. The Opposition should speak as if it has only one tongue. Is that the case? When a Congress Leader is denied a seat, the first thing that he does is to seek a seat from the BJP. If KV Thomas was not mollycoddled properly, he would have contested for the same seat on the BJP ticket. It did not show Opposition unity in a proper light when Mulayam Singh Yadav hoped publicly in Parliament that Modi would return as Prime Minister.

Nobody in his senses would believe what B.S. Yeddyurappa said in his personal diary that he gave bribes of Rs 1800 crore to the BJP and its leaders. But, then, they also wonder how the BJP has built a sprawling, state-of-the-art office building in Delhi and has been spending tonnes of money in successive elections. Allowance must also be made for the fact that Advani’s name figured in the Jain dairy. He and Sharad Yadav were two political leaders who admitted in public that they received the amounts as mentioned in the diary. The question was how could the diary be partially true.

The diary was a truthful account of the transactions the Jain brothers made but it was not taken to its logical conclusion and all those who allegedly received money from them remained honourable members of political parties. The same fate may befall the diary revelations unless the new Lok Pal notices it and takes suo motu action on it. Significantly enough, this diary, too, mentions that the Karnataka strongman has given Advani Rs 50 crore! This is one election in which the Opposition does not have to do much to corner the ruling party. All it needs to do is to remind Modi about the promises he made during the 2014 elections:

The Rs 15 lakh he promised everyone. The 10 crore jobs he promised to create. The promise to reduce petrol price to Rs 50. The promise to make the Indian rupee at par with the US dollar. The promise to reduce the prices of essential commodities. The promise to end the black money in circulation. All the reports and studies show that the condition of the people has only worsened. They are yet to recover from the shock of demonetisation. They know that Modi’s frequent travels have not yielded any result. They also know that if Nirav Modi was arrested in London it was because of an intrepid senior journalist who recognised him on the road and captured him on his recording device. Not because of Narendra Modi or his government!

The people also know that under Modi’s dispensation, a larger number of jawans and Police constables were killed than during the UPA regime. The Pakistani terrorists were able to launch two of their most deadly missions — Pathankot and Pulwama — when Modi was in command. All these are embarrassing issues for the BJP but, unfortunately, the Opposition does not speak in one voice. There are only a few days left for the candidates to file their nomination. 

The Congress has enough experienced leaders to take the initiative and sew up workable alliances in states where the Opposition votes are likely to be split. They cannot expect everything to be done by Rahul Gandhi. They should realise that no sacrifices are enough to protect the integrity and unity of the country against fascist forces who want their divisive agenda to be pushed down the throats of the common man. Let them learn from the slogan, United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

( ajphilip@gmail.com)

(Published on 25th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 13)