By Sushil Kutty
Don’t India’s opposition parties have feelings for the electorate? Watching them behave the way they do does not betray any people-friendly vibes. It would not be wrong to label them cynics. In fact, they should be “gently poked in the arm and told to stop being such misanthropes.” That is one view. India’s opposition parties have given up even before the battle has begun in earnest is the other view.
A third view compares the least cynical with the most cynical. The most cynical will forgo cooperation and joint efforts against a common enemy and end up losing the fruits of joining forces. And among the opposition parties, there are both, the least cynical, as well as the most cynical. Like somebody said, “being a misanthrope is costly.” Add to that “being the most-cynical can also be costly”.
India’s opposition parties are even at this late stage, and at a critical juncture, not in the mood to join forces and have a solid go at the BJP. They would still snatch defeat from victory. Perhaps, even exile. They are plagued with mutual distrust, which translates to no love lost for that section of the electorate which banks on them to get rid of the Modi regime.
The opposite of misanthropy is philanthropy. But politics has no room for philanthropy. And ever since Narendra Modi took up residence in 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi, opposition parties have been talking of ousting Modi’s “evil regime”, but because of the mutual distrust, they haven’t, and couldn’t. Not in 2019, and maybe not in 2024.
They will not succeed if they continue to be cynics, and misanthropic. Throughout the nearly two terms of Modi at the helm, a big section of the electorate has been clamouring for regime-change. But the disunity in the Opposition ranks has split their votes to keep the BJP in power. So much so, they’re at their tether’s end, demoralized, yet willing the opposition parties to come together and give a tough fight, the toughest in 10 years.
Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ hasn’t worked towards bringing about opposition unity. At least not when such powerful regional satraps like TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, BRS head K. Chandrashekar Rao, AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik, aren’t interested.
The BJY has succeeded in giving Rahul a makeover, and a certain standing as one of the many leaders of the Opposition. But he still doesn’t have the stature to bring the main players in the Opposition under one umbrella, with him at the helm!
It is not even sure if the 21 parties invited to the finale of the Bharat Jodo Yatra will be together for the duration of “2023-2024”. The RJD and JD(U) are suspect, though the RJD has been a more steadfast Congress ally. The same cannot be said about Janata Dal (U). Nitish Kumar, for all his ‘opposition unity’ talk, remains deceptive.
Chances are the Congress will be caught between JD(U) and RJD in Bihar. Perhaps, even crushed. Nobody should be fooled by Nitish Kumar’s for now dormant prime ministerial ambitions. They can be activated at the drop of a vote. The Congress with its “national party-tag” won’t give in cheaply as demoting Rahul Gandhi to Nitish’s ambitions is out of question.
That said, even if the Congress and the ‘21’ fight general elections 2024 together, will the ‘UPA’ be able to take on the BJP, and the KCR-led alliance, fight against two fronts, and win? The KCR-led alliance is the single biggest hurdle to Opposition unity.
If the BJP gets tossed in the dustbin, a disparate coalition of opposition parties will be fighting each other for the prized prime minister’s chair. With Rahul Gandhi, KCR, and Kejriwal, all in the race, not to leave out Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee. It would be a messy mix of misanthropes led by, hopefully, the least cynical of the lot. (IPA Service)