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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.
“Baith jaiye. Shaant ho jaiye”. These words have been part of the staple joke in 2011. The serene Meira Kumar with her signature smile, chiding MPs who disrupted Parliament on a regular basis for one demand or the other – this had been the regular scene on TV studios.
A year and quarter back, when the 16th Lok Sabha was sworn in, with the Bharatiya Janata Party commanding a brute majority, one had thought passing Bills would be a cakewalk for the ruling coalition now. Little did one anticipate that one year down the line, the same old scenes of ruckus would resurface and crores of tax payers’ money would be flushed down the aisles of the hallowed portals of the Parliament.
Now, the BJP is singing the “government tune” calling the Opposition for debate and discussion on the floor of the House, urging them not to waste the valuable time and money of the Parliament. In a role reversal, the Congress has struck to the “No resignation, no discussion” stand taken up by the BJP in the Monsoon-Winter Sessions of 2010.
Every minute of Parliament disrupted costs the exchequer Rs 2.5 lakh. As per some fan pages of Narendra Modi on Facebook, the disruptions in the previous week cost the nation Rs 27 crore. These pages blamed Congress for blocking key bills (rightly so) and said they were punishing the voters for rejecting the grand old party.
That made me think. As someone who has been keenly following Parliament sessions, the memories of 2010-11 are still fresh. BJP need not lecture others on smooth functioning of the House when their own leaders had made comments like “obstructing Parliament is also part of our daily work” or “disrupting Parliament is in national interest”.
And when it comes to calculating the loss to the exchequer caused by disruptions, BJP’s record is hard too match:
Monsoon Session – BJP obstructs Parliament. Loss 70 hours.
Winter Session – BJP does not let Parliament function. Entire 125 hours of the Session wasted.
Loss of 76 hours as Opposition holds the House hostage.
78 hours lost in Monsoon session and 59 hours in Winter Session as BJP demands resignation of various ministers.
73 hours lost again due to disruptions by various Opposition parties.
Total time wasted- 422 hours
This roughly amounts to a loss of Rs 63300 lakh crore to the exchequer. Now tell us what all we could have done with this money BJP wasted? For one, a financial package could have been given to West Bengal!