Agenda for opposition parties after electoral defeat

The BJP’s unprecedented rather miraculous victory at the 2019 general elections has undoubtedly stumped majority of political analysts and commentators who were of the view that the ruling party would cede some space to the opposition but contrary to their assessment triumph is bigger than in 2014.
The BJP has won 303 Lok Sabha seats while its alliance partners have taken the NDA tally to 353. The Congress led UPA could only muster 91 seats while the country’s oldest political outfit reduced itself to mere 52 seats three short to get the status of the leader of the opposition. Fact that the BJP’s overall vote share jumped from 31 percent in 2014 to 41 percent in five years is a clear indication of the danger that opposition is facing now.
A clear message from the its worst ever defeat in the Lok Sabha polls for the entire opposition including the Congress is that unless they draw appropriate lessons from their massive defeat is not very far from their respective extinction. Lack of an effective opposition is already a tragedy for the parliamentary democracy but complete extinction would be its death.
Though the battle for ballots is ideological yet it, at the same time, requires not only a convincing narrative but also an emotional connect with the large sections of the voting society. There is no doubt that Hindutva driven nationalism threatened by internal as well as external enemies is on march. While Pakistan symbolizes the external enemy, forces within are Muslims. Massive propaganda machinery of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) successfully drilled in gullible minds that Prime Minister Narendra Modi alone can defend the Indian nation.
Victory at any cost whether through fair or foul means is the motto of the ruling party. The BJP, being in the government, had multifold advantages and would continue to have it even in subsequent Lok Sabha and assembly elections. The Election Commission, Enforcement Directorate (ED), Departments of Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) and Income Tax (IT) have been converted into the handmaidens of the ruling party with which obstacles and hindrances were removed to ensure the ruling party’s return to power in 2019 and the scenario is not going to be changed in 2024 either.
In the given conditions, the opposition indeed not only requires a serious introspection to be able to come up to the challenges that exist today. While the Congress has relatively more responsibility to take a sincere initiative to unite the opposition. First step should be to invite all those political parties like leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), YSR Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)for serious deliberations for forging a unity.
The call for unity should go from Congress chief Rahul Gandhi making it clear that all top posts including that of the party chief of the new Congress would be open for contest. To begin with, a committee of senior leaders of those parties that emerged from the Congress should be formed to prepare the blue print of unity. NCP chief Sharad Pawar should head the committee.
Parallelly, the left parties or the parties that formed the Left Front in West Bengal and Kerala should take the similar step towards unity. In this direction, the CPM should take the lead and form a committee. In the same manner, former socialist leaders should also take the initiative.
After the unity of these broader ideological forces that were part of the freedom movement and dominated the post-independence politics of the country before the rise of the BJP on the scene should form a federal alliance that should work towards evolving a common vision of the country that is inclusive and implementable.
Common vision should be shorn of rhetoric and high- sounding ideological verbosity and should contain ideas that have the potential of changing the lives of the ordinary citizen and common persons. This is all the more important because the RSS-BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi has successfully created an environment of anti-intellectualism in the country. High university degrees and education in premium academic institutions and institutes of higher learning have become suspect in the eyes of those living in small towns, villages and deprived pockets of the urban conglomerates. Not only suspect, they have come to be identified as anti-nationals. Therefore, systemic work is required to reestablish the credibility of academics. For this, common vision would need to focus on primary and high secondary level education system where corrective steps are urgently required. Biggest challenge today is to prepare a counter narrative to counter the Hindutva and for that the secular forces need not take an-anti-religion stand. Sanatan Dharm is one broad concept through which Hindutva could be effectively challenged. Each political party that emerge after the unification process would have to work at the grassroot level to extract the venom that is being injected in society by Sangh and the BJP. One of the most important rather crucial pre-requisites of such a federal front should be a brutally honest introspection on the part of the two units of the proposed federal front-namely the Left and Socialist- of their anti-Congressism that has dominated their frame of mind and also an inspiration.
At the same time, federal front should also work towards electoral understanding identifying constituencies of respective strengths of the three parties so that people of the country get enough time to accept such a front. Candidates for these identified constituencies could be decided at the time of the election.
Work for the unification of ideological force has to begin rather must start immediately if the opposition really cares for the country, people and idea of India that is enunciated in the Constitution.
Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.

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