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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.

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The Bengal Bypolls – An Analysis

bypoll bengal

The saffron camp is celebrating already because after 1999, for the first time one of the BJP candidates has managed to secure a seat in West Bengal Assembly. But is it the right prism to view the results of the hotly-debated Assembly bypolls in Bengal? No. Let me explain why.

Basirhat South

2011: Basirhat South. TMC-Congress alliance candidate was sabotaged by an Independent (a dissident of the Congress). Left Front won the seat.

May, 2014. Lok Sabha elections: Left was nowhere in the scene as BJP took a lead of 32000 votes from this assembly segment. TMC came a distant second.

Assembly bypolls held on 13 September: Not only did Trinamool manage to cover the margin of 30000 votes, Dipendu Biswas (TMC candidates) was leading till the 10th round in the polls. BJP scraped through by only 1700 odd votes.

Takeaway: Trinamool has increased its votes in Basirhat South and BJP has eaten into the non-TMC votes.

Chowringhee

2011: TMC-Congress alliance candidate Sikha Mitra won from this seat with a thumping majority.

May, 2014: Somen Mitra quit TMC in January and was Congress LS candidate for Kolkata North where this assembly segment falls. Congress managed a lead of 1400 votes prompting Sikha Mitra to resign as MLA.

Assembly bypolls held on 13 September: Senior most leaders of BJP (including party President Amit Shah) came here to campaign. Personal attacks were made at Mamata Banerjee. Newspapers declared Trinamool is losing its popularity in Kolkata. Result? Trinamool wins by a margin of 14000 votes.

Takeaway: Trinamool increased its votes by over 15000 votes. People have clearly voted in favour of Mamata Banerjee. BJP has once again eaten into Left votes.

Conclusion:

BJP’s “Modi magic” has waned because of which their lead in Basirhat South has decreased significantly and they got a drubbing in Chowringhee. They may have won a seat, but capturing power in Bengal is still a distant dream for Sanghis.

Trinamool’s popularity is clearly on the rise. No matter what ABP Ananda and a few overactive Facebook/Twitter users from Calcutta and suburbs want others to believe.

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