Opposition works at cross purposes as polls near - GulfToday

Opposition works at cross purposes as polls near

BRP Bhaskar


Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.


The results of upcoming state elections will point towards BJP's fate in 2024's parliamentary polls.

Five states, all of them except one currently under Bharatiya Janata Party rule, go to the polls within the next three months. The results of these elections may give an early indication of what is in store for the party in the 2024 parliamentary elections. Uttar Pradesh, the largest state, figures in the poll calendar. In 2014, the BJP had bagged 71 of its 80 Lok Sabha seats.

This accounted for one-fourth of the party’s national tally. In 2019, UP’s contribution was lower but still substantial:  61 seats. One factor that compelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi to concede agitating farmers’ demand for repeal of the three farm sector reform laws was the anti-BJP campaign launched by them in UP. It had taken the form of mass rallies in BJP MPs’ constituencies. Last week Parliament repealed the three laws. But farmers’ unions have not withdrawn the agitation outside Delhi or the anti-BJP campaign.  They are continuing the agitation to press six new demands, including withdrawal of cases registered against them and payment of compensation to those who died during the stir.

Aware of the damage the campaign can cause to the party’s prospects, Modi has charged Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar with the task of making an early settlement with the farmers’ unions. In recent weeks, Modi launched scores of projects and welfare measures in UP and other poll-bound states.  While he is thus mending fences and bettering his party’s chances in the Assembly elections, the opposition parties are not able to join hands against the BJP.

In UP, as the strength of the Congress and the BJP declined, first the Bahujan Samaj Party, led by Dalit leader Mayawati, and then the Samajwadi Party, which draws support mainly from the backward classes, had wielded power by turns. Then came the Modi wave that swept the BJP back to power. If SP and BSP can work together, they can mount a stiff challenge to the BJP. But Mayawati has ruled out an alliance with SP, saying an earlier tie-up had worked to her disadvantage.

The best course before the Congress, which is now a spent force in the state, perhaps is to help SP and BSP come together and join the alliance as a junior partner. But it is pursuing the dream of reviving its old glory. In the small state of Uttarakhand, which was carved out of UP, the

Congress is the main opposition party. Its good performance in recent by-elections in the state stunned the BJP. It remains to be seen if it can repeat the performance.

It was the Congress which had emerged as the largest single party in Goa and Manipur in the 2017 Assembly elections. Outwitting it, the BJP quickly mobilised enough outside support in both the states to claim majority and form the government. Punjab is the only Congress-ruled state on the poll calendar. The party is in a bad shape there now.

Captain Amarinder Singh, who had led the party to power in 2017, quit as Chief Minister this year following differences with the Nehru-Gandhi family. He plans to form a regional party and fight the election in alliance with the BJP. For years, the BJP fought elections in the state as a minor partner of the Akali Dal.  After Modi ignored its opposition to the farm laws, the Dal pulled out its minister from the Union government and ended the alliance with the BJP. Modi must be grateful to the Congress for giving him a new ally. The Aam Admi Party, which rules Delhi state, bagged one of Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. It now plans to contest the Assembly elections in this state as well as Goa in opposition to both the BJP and the Congress.

Like Delhi’s AAP Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too plans to extend her party’s reach to new areas. After she beat back the BJP’s bid to oust her and seize power in Bengal, she is seen by some as a leader capable of taking on Modi at the national level. TMC recently established presence in a few states by attracting defectors from the Congress. The overall picture is one of opposition parties fighting one another instead of fighting the BJP. They do not seem to realise that success in these Assembly elections will improve the BJP’s chances of a hat-trick in 2024.

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