New urgency for opposition unity
There is a sense of demoralization among the opposition parties and the secular forces in general after the resounding victory of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The massive victory in UP, the largest populated state of the country, has given the Prime Minister Narendra Modi an invincible stature which will continue for some time unless the opposition parties can really throw up a big challenge to the Prime Minister or Mr. Modi himself makes a major lapse.
In this latest round of state assembly elections, the Congress has not really done that bad, the GOP has recaptured Punjab after ten years with a convincing majority and it has emerged as the largest single party in both Manipur and Goa. That in both states, BJP has finally formed the governments speaks of the money power and the general tendency of the smaller parties and the independents to go with the powerful. Right now, BJP is ruling at the centre and a state government headed by this party, will bring benefits to the elected legislators. Apart, the Congress leadership messed up the affairs in both Goa and Manipur and the designated Congress leaders could not match the fast moving young BJP pracharaks who handled the independents and regional parties.
Congress has done badly in UP but it was just a second fiddle to SP in UP and that way, the defeat was mainly of SP which came to power in 2012 assembly elections with 212 seats out of the total of 403.But more significant was Congress loss in Uttarakhand as it was considered as a Congress dominated state. Overall, the BJP has emerged much stronger and the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combination is considered as election wizards in the eyes of the BJP masses.
In politics, election defeats are part of life and struggle, but they should not lead to paralysis. In 1984 Lok Sabha poll, BJP got two seats and the Congress 404, but Rajiv Gandhi was defeated in the next Lok Sabha elections in 1989.The emergence of VP Singh was a factor in the Congress defeat. From 2 in 1984, the BJP captured 282 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a majority in the Lok Sabha for the party for the first time. Now, taking a look at 2019 Lok Sabha poll, most of the analysts are saying that it is done case for Modi in 2019. Modi himself is talking of what he will be doing in 2022. He is showing all the necessary confidence.
In the next round in 2017, the state assembly elections will be held in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Himachal is now ruled by the Congress and the BJP will make determined attempts to capture it. Though the Congress is the main party in the state, there are pockets of influence of BSP and the Left. Attempts should be made to unite all these forces against the BJP. Similarly in Gujarat which is still a difficult state for the Congress to regain, all attempts should be made to have understanding with the BSP, left and the anti-BJP elements within patidars. This is essential to create an environment that the BJP can be defeated in the state, Certainly the task is toughest, but it can be done provided the Congress state leaders are determined to snatch victory by cultivating the rural masses who have been their traditional support base for long.
On March 16, AICC general secretary C P Joshi said that the Congress wants a nation-wide alliance against the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. This is a welcome development. The Congress leadership has to be practical. The Congress is not the natural party of governance now. The Congress has to be accommodative to the other anti-BJP parties and it cannot talk from high pedestal. But this statement of Joshi should be followed up by concrete negotiations for drawing up a programme of anti-BJP forces. Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress, Nitish Kumar of JD(U), Lalu Yadav of RJD and even Arvind Kejriwal have to be part of this anti-BJP alliance.
The success of the Congress and its allies in Himachal and Gujarat in 2017 assembly elections, will build the momentum for the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pr5adesh, Rajasthan, Tripura, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram. The elections in Rajasthan, MP and Karnataka are crucial for the future of the Congress. Karnataka is ruled by the Congress and the BJP is determined to get it back. The Congress has to have understanding with Janata Dal(S) of Deve Gowda as also Left to keep BJP at bay. In Rajasthan and MP also, understanding with the BSP is needed.
Narendra Modi has taken away the pro-poor agenda of the Congress. The Party has to reinvent itself to emerge as the custodian of the underprivileged, the tag which Indira Gandhi had. The Left may not have much strength now due to loss of West Bengal, but it must give intellectual inputs to this process of building an anti-BJP popular viable alternative. The opposition agenda must appeal to the youth, women and poor. Rahul, Mamata, Nitish, Lalu, Kejriwal, Sitaram Yechury, Sudhakar Reddy are by now national leaders. They have to join hands to keep BJP out of power after 2019. Just as it was possible in Bihar assembly elections, it should not be impossible in 2019 Lok Sabha poll also. 282 seats in Lok Sabha is much inflated strength of BJP, its strength can be limited within 150 and if that can be done by the combined opposition in 2019, a BJP-mukt Centre is possible. (IPA)