By Harihar Swarup
The BJP is keenly watching the churn in India’s oppositional politics. BJP sees the implosion in the Congress. The battle within the country’s grand old party is between those who see a bleak future under current leadership and those who believe that the future of this party rests in Gandhi siblings taking full control of the party. The battle is symbolized by Captain Amarinder Singh’s announcement that he would quit the party. As both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi assert authority and alienate established leaders, this battle will only intensify. On the other hand, the BJP can see Trinamool Congress and Aam Admi Party’s attempts to establish a national footprint at the cost of the Congress.
The BJP has little to do with this—except that since it is the common target, how the dynamics in the Congress and between the Congress and the TMC and AAP evolve will shape the landscape for 2024 Lok Sabha elections.. And it is in this context that the ruling party can see that its trump card—the leadership and appeal of Narendra Modi—will only stay intact. There is a range of structural explanations for the BJP’s dominance – from the rise of Hindutva to the party’s robust organizational machine, from the government welfare schemes to the interplay of urbanization, caste and technology leading to change in the voting patterns. But at the core, the BJP’s voters—and even those voters who are disillusioned with the BJP—ask question. If not Narendra Modi, then who?
In terms of principles, this is not the right question to ask in a Parliamentary Democracy. But both 2014 and 2019 elections have shown that India is witnessing a presidential model in poll. As the opposition battles it out internally, for the BJP, reinforcing and amplifying the question of the alternative has become much more easier. Rahul Gandhi can be dismissed for mismanaging Punjab; Mamata Banerjee’s rise allows BJP to play on urban India’s sense of her as maverick; it also allows it to play up its messaging on her as a pro- Muslim leader. But beyond the specifics, the Opposition allows the BJP to portray Modi as a stable hand at the wheel, even as all others are mired in the race to get inside the car.
For BJP which was in backfoot before in view of the continuing farmers agitation and its potential in boosting opposition, there is some relief as apart from Congress in fighting and Rahul Gandhi’s struggle to maintain his credibility, the Congress is at loggerheads with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP in terms of organization in many states which are going to polls. Mamata is poaching senior Congress leaders, the latest in Goa where a former chief minister and a very senior leader of Congress joined TMC just on the eve of assembly elections in February/March 2022.
As regards AAP, the party was never comfortable with the Congress and AAP is fighting both in Goa and Punjab targeting the Congress and this might be of some advantage to BJP. But the most important factor is the credibility of the opposition as an alternative to the organizationally super strong BJP to challenge the saffron in the coming elections. The Opposition leaders of the 19 parties met on August 20 and there was big talk about launching movements between September 20 and 30, but this was not at all followed up. Only the farmers organisations outside the ambit of the political parties, observed Bharat Bandh on September 27 and the kisan morcha has been fighting the Modi Government all through.
Yes, there are some issues for BJP which the party has to sort out but the ground is not fertile for a solid opposition front despite all the talk and that is the big comfort for the BJP on the ve of the assembly elections in five states early next year and in another two states later in 2022. Political barometer changes very fast and right now, it is advantage BJP. (IPA Service)