Conflicting interests hit Opposition unity - GulfToday

Conflicting interests hit Opposition unity

BRP Bhaskar


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


Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are escorted by the their security staff in New Delhi.

Can the disparate opposition parties combine to mount an effective challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha election?

This question had gained new relevance after the BJP’s impressive 4-1win the recent Assembly elections in five states.

The only state where the BJP fared badly was Punjab. It was never a major player in that state anyway.

Even in defeat, the BJP could derive some comfort from the fact that the winner in Punjab was not the Congress, but the Aam Admi Party.

Almost all opposition parties ritually denounce the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Hindutva ideology that drives it. But none of them has offered strong resistance to the Hindutva-inspired laws enacted by the BJP in the last eight years.

The measures did meet with resistance. But the movement was led by civil society groups, not political parties.

The main obstacle in the way of the opposition parties which talk of joining hands to oust the Modi regime is their grossly exaggerated notions about their own importance.

Besides, party leaders more often than not put personal or sectarian interests above those of the country and the people as a whole.

The sad fact is that all national parties other than the BJP have been on the decline for years. Their primary motive at this stage is to preserve their small domains. The larger interests of the nation and the constitutional values of democracy and secularism figure only marginally in their calculations.

Besides the BJP, there are five parties which the Election Commission has recognised as national parties on the basis of past electoral performance. They are the Congress, the two Communist parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Nationalist Congress Party.

The Congress, which led the freedom movement and dominated the political scene in the early years of Independence, is now a thin shadow of its past self. It now has a hold on power only in two states.

The party started declining in Indira Gandhi’s time. When the party split, the rank and file stayed with her. But neither she nor her successors paid attention to the task of building a new organisational machinery from bottom upwards.

Sonia Gandhi, who assumed the party’s leadership a few years after Rajiv’s assassination, held the party together during the 10 years of the United Progressive Alliance government as UPA chairman.

Her son Rahul Gandhi’s inept handling of the differences in the party’s Punjab unit made a big contribution to the loss of the state in the recent Assembly election.

Even in its current sad plight, the Congress remains the only opposition party with a truly national base.

Rahul Gandhi appears to view the planned organisational elections as a way to legitimise his leadership. But it may be in the party’s best interests, and his own, at this stage to find a helmsman from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family.

The undivided Communist Party of India was the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha in till 1962 and was widely seen as a national alternative to the Congress.  The party split of 1964 blighted the prospects of a Left alternative at the Centre.

Since the early 1960s the CPI (Marxist) and the CPI have been working together. But they have not been able to revive the concept of a Left alternative.

For three decades the Left held sway over Bengal and Tripura. Then they lost the former to the regional Trinamool Congress and the latter to the BJP. That reduced the Left to a one-state phenomenon.

The Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar is also essentially a one-state party.

The Bahujan Samaj Party, promoted by a Dalit movement, earned national status by garnering votes from across the country by setting up candidates knowing they can’t win. But it never grew beyond Uttar Pradesh, where its supremo, Ms. Mayawati, became Chief Minister four times.

While the old parties withered, new ones arose. Consequently there are many more players in the field. They include Arvind Kejriwal, whose Aam Admi Party now rules over two states and has the potential to grow into a national party, and several regional parties which have demonstrated the ability to hold Hindutva at bay.

The new situation calls for new national strategies and new national policies, which can overcome the regressive forces and lead the country forward, safeguarding the interests of all sections of the people.

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