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India’s Opposition needs to reinvent itself for 2019

Image Source: Livemint

Like in the United States of America they have the mid-term polls to gauge the mood of the Nation halfway through the term of the President, India had Assembly polls in five States for 609 seats. Coincidentally, the Modi Govt has completed half its term already. The massive victory for BJP in the largest State of the country – Uttar Pradesh – will surely boost the morale of the ruling party. The Opposition clearly needs to face the mirror, for 2019 is barely 24 months away.

A lot of opinions have emerged on the victory of BJP in UP, most praising Modi-Shah duo for riding their party towards a stupendous win. Of course, praise is due for them for getting their caste arithmetic and social-engineering right. One must not also forget that BJP currently is a rehabilitation centre for the disgruntled leaders from other parties. Personal charismas of local candidates may have helped too.

Those who think development agenda won the BJP this election will be living in fool’s paradise. From the shamshan-kabristan remark to the ‘Mandir Wahi Banayenge’ rants or the diatribe of the likes of Sakshi Maharaj against Muslims clearly gave away the BJP’s intentions. As a friend wrote on Twitter, the Muslim vote was fractured between BSPand SP, while the Hindu vote, cutting across castes went en-bloc to BJP.

I for one was hoping for a win for the SP (and I say SP not SP-Congress alliance because the Congress virtually non-existent in the political map of India at present and the alliance was an illogical decision on Akhilesh Yadav’s part; an alliance with Mayawati would have been more fruitful). Could sabotage by the old guard be a reason for the shocking defeat? Akhilesh clearly enjoys huge popularity among the people but it didn’t translate into votes. Only organisational weakness is to blame for it.

After this verdict, Modi’s position as the leader of the country is consolidated further. So, the Opposition must reinvent its strategy. Currently there is no face to challenge Modi on the national scale. The Congress must get off the high horse it is sitting on and take all parties on board for a rainbow coalition against the BJP. Criticism of Modi is not enough to dislodge him from 7, Racecourse Road. The Opposition needs to present a credible alternative.

The elections post 2014 have thrown up one interesting factoid. Modi is not invincible. States where there have been strong leaders have rejected the BJP – be it Bengal, Bihar or Delhi. Direct contests between Congress and BJP have obviously led to BJP’s victory; credibility of the Congress is at an all-time low and only a change of guard can bolster the party’s image.

A major factor that played its role in the elections is the complete collapse of the Opposition. Rewind to the turbulent times between 2010 and 2013 – BJP would hit the streets on issues all and sundry. Have we seen any such mass-scale protests by the Indian Opposition parties on the issue of demonetisation? I remember only Mamata Banerjee holding multi-city protests! Sharing memes on digital media is an important communication tool. But to make the masses understand the alternative is a different ball-game altogether.

Two years is a long time in politics. All is not lost yet. The right strategy and the perfect leadership can turn things around. In politics, you should never write anyone off. Remember, in 2004 Mamata Banerjee was the lone MP from Trinamool. Now Trinamool is the fourth largest party in Lok Sabha with 34 MPs.

An Open Letter to Rahul Gandhi

Dear Rahul Jee,

Courtesy Outlook

I wish to use this opportunity to wish you a very happy birthday, albeit belated. I hope God gives you the stamina to tide over what they wittily call the midlife crisis. I am sure you are yet to face the crises in your life, given that you are still in the learning process.

I must confess I was once smitten by your charisma. The aura you exuded was a cherry on the chocolate cake that your persona exemplifies. Your experimentation with various styles of facial hair, with or without the glasses that adorn your face, out maneuver several other politicians in the fray. It makes me wonder how you maintain your charm despite all the padyatras and dharnas in the dusty hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh. (I would eagerly wait to hear about personality management from you, in near future).

Of late, this fan of yours has had to go through heartbreak of sorts, and I daresay I do not blame you for that. Variety spices up life they say, and I hold it true as the gospel. But you seem to be steadfast focused on battling Mayawati. India exists outside the deprived villages of Bundelkhand, you know. Farmers are handed a rough treatment in other states of India too, they die of hunger and commit suicide ridden by debt in an overwhelming part of the “other India”. Yes, I learnt that term from you. Thank you, I too firmly believe there are two India’s. There is one India that draws your attention and the other which does not.

You know Sir, I belong from West Bengal. I am sure you have heard of this state. You had visited Jalpaiguri and Malda in April, remember? I am not sure you have heard of Singur. Have you? Yeah, I guessed so. The news of farmers’ land being usurped by state government for private use by corporates surely did not reach your ears, because the state government was your ally at Center back then. I do not blame you. You are surrounded by sycophants, it is but natural that news is filtered before it reaches you. I am sure you were busy visiting Dalit homes in Uttar Pradesh, when Shivraj Patil blamed villagers for the police firing in Nandigram, on the floor of the Lok Sabha. I know your hands were tied by coalition dharma.

I was amazed that none of the Youth Congress brigade thought it wise to even block a road after Tapasi Malik’s rape and murder in Singur. Didn’t they go on a rampage during election of state youth congress president a few months back? Tch Tch. My bad, how is a busy leader supposed to keep note of all that is happening across the nation? That is why I refuse to mention Jaitapur and Vidarbha like the hindu sanghi trolls do.

I have also heard that you are in favour of creating a separate Bundelkhand carved out of Uttar Pradesh. I am all for it. Smaller states mean better administration and decentralization of power. But sir, then would we not have to create so many other states – Jangalmahal, Kamtapur, Bodoland, Greater Coochbehar, Gorkhaland, and not forget Telengana? Sorry to have brought up the T word, but I was wondering, do we support creation of Telengana? Yeah, I know it is a very sensitive subject and better left to the GoM to brainstorm. No issues.

I was glad to hear you say Mayawati’s government is run by dalals. Finally someone had the conviction to call a spade a spade. By the way, did you hear about Commonwealth Games scam or the Adarsh Building scam? No? Ok. We can save that chat for some other time. Sir, are you aware of the dalal mafia in Indian Railways? You surely travel by the trains, don’t you? I did catch a glimpse of you on a train in Bombay, a year back. You were there promoting a film by Shahraukh Khan. You were there protesting against communalist forces taking Mumbai hostage to parochial politics!

I am sure you are aware that there has been a change of regime in Bengal. Your mother had extended congratulatory messages to Mamata Banerjee. They are jolly good friends. Like sisters. I am sure you also know that Mamata has made legislation to return land to farmers in Singur, similar law to return land in Rajarhat is going to be placed soon. A new land policy is also on the anvil. I was really happy to know, your government in the Center will soon table a new land bill (since when have we been hearing this, Sir?). Better late than never.

Recently, Bengal was caught unawares in a devastating natural calamity. Earthquake in three districts of Bengal could not bring you here. Neither have we heard your concern for crib deaths in Kolkata hospitals. I was wondering why. Of course you must be busy fighting elephants to safeguard the rights of beggars, aren’t you Sir?

I realize that I have taken up a lot of time from your precious schedule. I will conclude it here and now. And why just Bengal? There are several states in “the other India” who would like to tell you similar stories.

Yours truly,

An Indian from the “Other” India.

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