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12 August, 2018 11:08:48 AM

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Much ado about nothing

For starters and actually an alliance that showed the way was the BSP and SP, led by Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav respectively
Kumkum Chadha
Much ado about nothing

It is kind of much ado about nothing. There has been, in the recent past, an attempt to float the Opposition unity balloon.

The one-point agenda of the entire exercise being to oust the BJP in the best case scenario and if that does not happen then ensure that even if the BJP comes in, it does with a fractured mandate and if and when that happens it could be a dispensation minus Narendra Modi at the helm. The last, interestingly, has many takers, outside the BJP of course but also within.  But first things first and that of the entire Opposition pitched against the BJP to work towards its rout. Some alliances in the past during by-elections have thrown up surprises and with that the possibility of non BJP parties coming together getting stronger by the minute.
For starters and actually an alliance that showed the way was the BSP and SP, led by Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav respectively in Uttar Pradesh which gave the BJP a run for its money in a state that had not long ago shook BJP in its citadel. The results in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by elections were there for everyone to see. The citadel of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya, it was kind of a prestige battle for the BJP and the subsequent rout a talking point. The common refrain was that BJP is losing ground and the crucial state of UP has shown the way.
More importantly there was a clear message for the Opposition, in finding its roots in the age old adage: united we stand, divided we fall. The coming together of bitter rivals SP and BSP were a clear indicator that one and one can be eleven rather than being two. It is this eleven that the entire Opposition put together has decided to take forward in 2019 when general elections are due in India. Snapshots of the camaraderie between Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi that were front page material did the rest.

From some accounts, the BJP too developed cold feet over the possibility though many dismissed it as a pipe dream. In one sense this has some basis because even though state specific alliances are being talked about rather than an over arching mahagadbandhanor Opposition unity, in the two main events when the Opposition could have converged to defeat the BJP, it failed miserably. In fact, the poor showing gives credence to the pipe dream theory that played out on two occasions in the Parliament.

For starters there was the no trust motion that the combined Opposition brought against the Government. Even while Congress President Sonia Gandhi had said that they have the numbers, it was a foregone conclusion that the no trust battle is as good as lost. The final figures stood at 325 in the Government’s kitty and 126 against. This went beyond expectations and even while the win was on the cards, such an impressive one dashed all hopes for an anti BJP front that is gearing up to take on the BJP in 2019. That the BJP got support from even those it does not count its own, is a factor that should worry the Opposition. In the forefront was Biju Janata Dal’s neutrality when it abstained from the debate as well as voting.  

Interestingly it is BJD that came to help the ruling party when it came to the issue of election of Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.  Unsure of numbers, the Government was dilly dallying over the elections when it overnight agreed to play ball. The reason that it had cobbled up numbers to ensure a smooth sail and once again upstaged the Opposition and its candidate who lost by a handful of votes. Prime Minister Modi himself dialed a particular Chief Minister seeking his support while the Congress did not even wake upto the possibility. The three major parties, the Congress, the Samajwadi party, and the Trinamool Congress had very little communication and the Congress that should have been pro-active was caught napping even while Modi was happily dialling away and winning over people to his side.

That is one part the other being that even the BJP allies are unhappy with the treatment they are handed down by Modi and his men. Many have expressed reservations about the lack of respect to the allies and the attempt to take them for granted. Some have even gone as far to say that they want a Vajpayee like Prime Minister who showed due regard to the alliance partners and treated them deferentially. The Modi era being different the allies are feeling left out and visibly dejected. This is quite like the feeling of the people of India who if reports are anything to go by are feeling let down by the Modi dispensation and his  magic of 2014 fast fading.

Partly true that the dreams that were spun a little less than five years ago are far from being realised and there is a fair degree of disappointment across the board. But that does not mean a sure exit of Modi dispensation. Nor does it mean entry of Congress. These are two extremes one is talking of and the reality lies somewhere midway.

As of now, the way things have panned out, Modi has lost ground but not conceded it. In other words, there is a dent in his popularity but this does not mean his being written off. For that 2019 may be too early and given the circumstances this may be a hasty conclusion. Also one must remember the high tolerance quotient of the Indian people and how they are ever willing to give a long rope. The Congress remained in power for many years and going by that the BJP has just begun its run.

Also the vacuum in the Opposition is a big question mark and if the battle is between Modi and Rahul Gandhi then Modi can just sit back and watch the fun. He does not need to lift a finger even. Yes, the challenge can be if the Opposition unites but if it does not throw up a PM face then the battle may not be as tough. As it appears Modi dispensation will lose a good number of seats but will stitch up alliances to form a government.

The Opposition too is banking in a less than 200 mark hoping that a weakened Modi may not be able to make a bid for PMship and the BJP may pitch for someone else. There are enough people within the BJP who would want the BJP back minus Modi, which is the second best scenario for the Opposition too. Ofcourse  swords are out against the Congress for not doing enough in the Deputy Speaker’s election but one can take solace in the fact that the distance between Parliament and ground is rather huge and chances of Parliament numbers playing out during an election are rather slim so losing an election within corridors of power may not find resonance when the people go to cast their votes.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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