A much-hyped meeting of leaders of not less than eight political parties at the residence of one of the most distinguished, senior-most and astonishingly seasoned politicians of the country is termed as ‘not a political meet’ but ‘an interaction on the current situation’ by the like-minded people. The political might and caliber of Sharad Chandra Pawar is not comparable to any of the living politicians of the day in many respects – an unparallel political mathmagician, an outstanding Brickman and an astute influencer of situations and circumstances, he has a proven record of making and unmaking the surroundings and doing and undoing things very well beyond extra-ordinary comprehension and wisdom.
There is no harm accepting NCP’s version of the meeting that this was ‘called by Rashtra Munch chief Yashwant Sinha’ and ‘took place at Pawar’s residence’’. It is always politically wise to keep things under the warp till they become visible at their own. Amidst West Bengal elections only Mamata Banerjee wrote to all opposition parties calling for unity to take on ‘the autocratic regime of Narendra Modi and BJP’. After the elections results were out there were chorus of the unity as was after 2015 Bihar election results and 2020 Jharkhand results.
Few impacting things also happened recently – One, Yashwant Sinha, the senior BJP leader and a well-meaning BJP face of Vajpayee era, who had been desperate to find a space, found a comfortable and prestigious place in Mamata’s All India Trinmool Congress. He has been the sole vocal anti-Modi face from his BJP era out of the many sidelined, and thereby offended first-benchers of Advani-Vajpyee’s BJP. Two, Mamata Banerjee had meeting with farm leaders with Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Kishor in attendance where she pledged support to farmers’ agitation demanding withdrawal of the three farm laws being protested against. Three, Mamata Banerjee after taking over the third time reigns of her state wrote to all oppositions Chief Ministers calling for a ‘union of the opposition Chief Ministers’ to fight against the onslaught on federalism by Modi dispensation. Four, Prashant Kishor has had at least two, if not more, brain-storming meetings with Sharad Chandra Pawar, whose NCP never engaged Kishor till date professionally. Four, the second wave of Covid saw 13 parties coming together writing a letter fiercely critical of BJP govt handling the crisis.
The general elections are far, but not that far too, politically speaking, given not so conducive socio-economy-political situation of the country as a whole. The pandemic has created a condition triggering crumbling of many structures – ideological as well as physical. There are simmering global cries of systematic and sustainable change everywhere in everything. Political fall-outs would just be one part of all this. Absence of viable and visible political alternative would go on haunting the system as well as the people and this absence for long may have dangerous ramifications for democracy.
The opposition unity efforts would intensify in days to come. The upcoming state elections next year may see certain state combinations coming up. The results would trigger further consolidation of unity efforts. Unfortunately, baring Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister there is hardly any BJP leader in any state who has the mass appeal and popularity in his entire state.
BJP has sent all those regional satraps packing either to Raj Bhavans or to retirements.
The state elections may see a lose combination of parties with leaders across opposition parties campaigning for the opposition candidates. UP elections would turn out to be the main battle turf where the opposition would concentrate their efforts. Talks of leadership change in the state coming out from within the state BJP are not at all a good symptom for the party. Punjab Congress is in great troubles, but the BJP has already lost Akalis, one of its most trusted allies, as its partner. Opposition would also blow-up farmers’ protests out of proportions in these two states.
A national combination of parties putting a formidable face, however, seems illusionary for many valid and well-grounded reasons – First, despite everything most critical said about Narendra Modi, his personal rating still remains phenomenal and stunning. Even globally, he continues to maintain an irrefutable and definitive lead. The faith, respect and above all the love he commands of his people remain intact even on the face of serious adversities, pandemic included. It would be futile to try find any explanations for this, for trust and confidence have no explanation. He has outgrown his party and people see in him their own personifications and reflections. Contrast to this, there is no face with unimpeachable integrity, outstanding all-India acceptability and a self-less image who can stand and challenge the aura of Narendra Modi.
Looking back, JP and his personality vis a vis Indira would prove the point.
Second, combined regional aspirations do not equalize the national requirements. Regional agenda with attractive regional slogans may win local hearts but would not make an all-India appeal. Regional parties are already losing relevance in politically sensitive states like UP and Bihar. Other states too are likely to follow suit. Moreover, regional parties do not have any national vision and agenda. Only negative narrations about the center may not be enough to forge alliances.
Third, BJP at the center as also in the states have provided a cleaner and more efficient governance. People hardly have come across allegations of corruption at higher levels – more especially at political levels. Contrast this with erstwhile Congress govts at the center and many states. Corruption had been one of the core issues in 2014 campaign and BJP leaders have, by and large, led the administration with living examples. This, in itself, has been one of the greatest contributions of BJP dispensation.
Fourth, there are no pressing reasons of people being dis-enchanted and dis-illusioned from the center. There is definitely not a situation where the common people have become disparate for a change – like the second innings of both Indira and Dr Singh regimes. There is definitely not much of heat demanding an imminent hammer.
Fifth, a solo anti-Modi chorus appears hollow, empty and meaningless, which will pose the natural question – who if not Narendra Modi? Yashwant Sinha has rightly commented that this question was a trap where they will be exposed to a big zero. The opposition is very unlikely to come and present an attractive, viable and practical agenda which could challenge the BJP’s performance so far and promise a better governance.
A strong opposition is badly needed for the country at any juncture – more so presently when the current regime is going to complete a fair ten years, when their performance needs to be critically evaluated and examined. But a group of dissatisfied, disgruntled, frustrated and highly prejudiced minds is not going to fill in this gap. Otherwise, Congress led the country for more than half a century, why BJP should not deserve continue at the helm at least for equal the numbers?
A truly national party could be contested by an equal national entity – a paralyzed Congress, with no course correction in sight, has led the situation from bad to worse. A confederation of regional parties would just make mockery of everything. We already have had examples of these experiments – right from creation of great Janata Party to so many of incidental Prime Ministers heading different coalitions and combinations. People have definitely grown wiser and would refrain from putting the country to such serious experiments.
We may have pre-poll coalitions to fight BJP in the states, which might affect BJP govts adversely depending on the local circumstances as it already happened in the past at various occasions. Such coalitions might also come up to fight the 2024 general elections too, but at the national battle field it would hardly have any remarkable effect.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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