Building opposition unity

If the BJP has to win the 2019 elections and come back to power, it has to ensure that it bags the majority of seats in four major States of the Hindi belt – Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. A broad unity of the major political parties in these States, the SP, the BSP, the Congress and strong local parties like the RJD in Bihar and the RLD in UP, will put paid to BJP’s dream of ruling India for another five years. It was expected that efforts will be made to prevent such a unity. Now Mayawati’s unilateral decision to field 22 candidates of her party on her own and to enter into an alliance with Ajit Jogi’s Jana Congress in Chhattisgarh will not only put the Congress on the defensive but, more than that, will send a negative message to the people, viz: that the opposition parties may not be able to forge an all-in unity before the next elections.
Mayawati has many chinks in her armour which make her vulnerable to pressure. She cannot afford to lose her dalit vote bank or allow it to be weaned away from her because her political survival depends on her influence on the dalits. If necessary she will rather abandon the idea of a united opposition to ensure her political survival. The main thing for the BJP is to prevent her from joining hands with the Congress. Without Mayawati, an SP-Congress alliance will not be able to put up a strong challenge to the BJP in UP, where BJP needs to win at least fifty seats to retain its dominance in the next Lok Sabha. Mayawati’s decision to go it alone in MP and Chhattisgarh will help BJP to breathe easy in these two States.
The last few days’ developments show the hurdles to building an opposition unity that can successfully challenge the BJP and assure the electorate that the opposition will be able to provide an alternative government that will last its full term of five years. The Congress, however, may derive some comfort from the fact that desertion of Mayawati will make Congress position relative better vis-à-vis Akhilesh in UP. The situation is still very fluid and more developments are likely to happen in the next few weeks and months. The coming together of some known critics of Narendra Modi in the BJP, like Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha cannot be ruled out either.

Sunday, 23 September, 2018