Gearing up for 2019

The general elections are still a good couple of years away. But the battle lines for it are already being drawn up in right earnest. To all appearances, there will be two major groupings this time: the NDA led by the BJP and the entire – and if not the entire the biggest chunk of it – of the opposition, laying the utmost emphasis on democracy and secularism – in equal measure. That the BJP, despite its unchallengeable majority in the Lok Sabha and the still strong charisma of the Prime Minister, is not taking the battle lightly is clear from the way it has already gone all out against the opposition parties and their individual leaders. The CBI is intensifying its inquiry against Lalu Yadav, targeting P. Chidambaram and his son Karti in Tamil Nadu and against TMC leaders in West Bengal. The BJP is trying to have a finger in the political pie that is Tamil Nadu, trying to win over one faction of the AIADMK. In West Bengal, BJP central leaders are throwing dark hints that those TMC leaders whose names figure in the Sarada and Narada scams will soon be thrown behind bars.
Meanwhile, both the combatants are gearing up for a show of strength at Patna on August 27, the day Jayaprakash Narayan issued his clarion call against India Gandhi, 37 years ago. Some opposition leaders have expressed fear that they may be detained before that day in order to frustrate the rally. All these suggest that the BJP leaders, despite their braggadocio, are leaving nothing to chances.  They are aware that 2019 will not be a cakewalk for them, particularly if the Opposition parties are really able to sink their political differences and personal incompatibilities and present a credible alternative which really means to take on the DNA ideologically.
Once the opposition move gets a thrust, it will be easier to draw in smaller and regional players. Successive electoral defeats have hammered some sense into the Congress. Sonia Gandhi seems to have realized that at this critical juncture the Congress can serve interests best by acting as a catalytic agent for opposition unity rather than try to get a preponderant role for itself in any future power-sharing. Mamata Banerjee is playing her cards deftly, making it clear that she is alive to the reality that no national unity of the Opposition is possible without the Congress and that personally she is not in the running for the prime ministership. This augurs well for a united front of the opposition.

Monday, 22 May, 2017