By Dr. Gyan Pathak
One can’t fail to see people reeling under anguish, and even the BJP politicians are cutting a sorry figure when confronted by the miserable conditions of the people due to fear of political backlash, but the opposition parties are in utter disarray. They seem to fail in overcoming too complex a psychological reason that remains a hurdle in their way of unity despite their leadership feeling the need of such unity in the present socio-politico-economic conditions of India. A bigger responsibility of course lies with the INC, the largest political party in opposition, but its politicians are vertically split, from top to bottom, in their personal greed due to their grave assessment errors regarding their prospect of gains. BJP leadership is under great stress on account of people’s anguish on the ground, but happy to see the utterly scattered opposition.
It will have immediate impact on the elections in five states – Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa – the process of which are going to start soon, because barring Uttar Pradesh, vidhan sabhas of all the states are to expire in March 2022. Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha is due to expire in mid-May 2022. There is obviously not enough time left for political parties to prepare themselves to take on their rivals.
It was only on August 20 that the leaders of 19 political parties in opposition met on a virtual platform and gave a call for unity and working together for the “ultimate goal” of defeating the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and providing a government that believes in the values of the freedom movement and the principles enshrined in the Constitution. They even issued a joint statement calling upon “the people of India to rise to the occasion to defend our secular, democratic Republican order” and announced joint protest action between September 20 and 30. But we have already seen how the different political parties are trying to put up their candidates independently in the impending Vidhan Sabha elections in the five states.
Sonia Gandhi, the interim president of the Congress, who had convened the virtual meeting of the opposition political parties, had said that the opposition parties simply had “no alternative to working cohesively together” and needed to rise above “compulsions in the interest of the nation”. She was right in her assessment, and only a few weeks ago during the monsoon session of parliament, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had a remarkable achievement, by getting the opposition parties together for a united opposition in both the Houses. It had created a certain level of hope of the possibility of a united opposition of the anti-BJP forces, but was only short lived, chiefly due to conflict of interest among the leaders of various parties as well as among Congress politicians themselves.
People’s anguish against the BJP everywhere in the country due to mishandling of the economic and the COVID-19 crises, the Centre’s push for labour and farm reforms which are being protested by working class and farmers all over the country, and the move for large scale selling off of public sector enterprises to private sector, has given rise to the general feeling that the BJP can be a political loser. As for the opposition leaders, they entertained an idea that if BJP loose it would be their gain. The greed of gain crossed even reasonable limits and then the ‘conflict of interest’ crept underneath.
The conflict of interest was visible even during Sonia Gandhi’s meeting. Let us take the example of Uttar Pradesh, where BJP has been ruling the roost, though a significant proportion of people are angry over the functioning of the state government. Farmers, particularly of western Uttar Pradesh having about 90 Vidhan Sabha seats, are directly opposing BJP for the controversial three farm laws and they are agitating for their repeal. Working class, Muslims, a larger section of the OBCs, and also Brahmins have been expressing their grievances against the government. It was but natural in this scenario for the opposition parties to hope for certain gain. Priyanka Gandhi has been camping in the state for quite some time with a hope of the party’s revival. The hope even crossed its limit, leading to the party’s mishandling of the relationship with other important political players in the state, resulting in no response from the BSP, and SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav even stayed away. Since Aam Admi Party was left out by the Congress, there was no question of AAP’s participation. Only recently AAP announced that they will contest all 403 seats in the state. There is no denying the fact that SP and BSP are still a political force in the state to reckon with, and Congress is still at the fourth position. It is therefore not realistic for the Congress to adopt such a path that leads only to disunity of the opposition.
So be it in Uttar Pradesh for inter-party rivalry. However, the worst inner-party rivalry is seen in Punjab. The SAD and the BJP are in very bad shape in that state, and AAP was lately showing weakness in its political rank and file. It was sufficient reason for Congress, which is ruling the state, to hope for a walk over. The greed of the gain among the Congress politicians touched a new high and they wished for a larger share for the gain for themselves without losing this perceived godsend opportunity. Rival Congress politicians ganged up with two rival groups – one led by Chief Minister Capt Amrinder Singh and the other by Navjot Singh. It is here they have committed an error of assessment. They are fighting like anything, and Congress leadership at the Centre is caught between insurmountable dilemmas of taking or not taking action for indiscipline. There is no indication that the infighting will cease to be before the assembly election. In the mean time, AAP is becoming stronger in the state day by day, much to the chagrin of the Congress.
The conflict of interest has also given rise to inter-party and inner-party rivalry in Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur too. Though they are smaller states, the opposition cannot afford even for friendly fight at the present political scenario in which every seat counts, which may boost or mar the morale as well as prospect of every political party. Congress leadership should not indulge only in sugar coated words of opposition unity, but act in very careful manner, since it is the largest political party in opposition, and hence has the biggest responsibility. (IPA Service)