THE POLITICAL GAMECHANGERby Satyabrata Ghosh May 10 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins, 19 secs
Satyabrata Ghosh analyses the politics of the day, and arrives at conclusions, which opposition parties must adhere to if they are serious about winning the 2024 general elections.
In the game of possibilities that politics is, a moment is imminent when India might repeat history. Almost 50 years ago, Jayaprakash Narayan, a dynamic figure in India’s opposition politics beckoned the other political actors then across India to unite against the repression of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency Act, of 1975. They had been successful to oust the Congress leader from Prime Ministership in 1977 and also initiated legal action against her, which put her behind the bar for a while.
It was a different story that the intra-fighting among the leaders, then, had helped Indira Gandhi to return to power in 1979 with a majority. And it’s also ironic that BJP backed by RSS came into the fray of mainstream politics, courtesy the anti-emergency movement.
But presently, the biggest irony is the repression, which the present generation has been victim to. Added to it, is the ‘360 degree surveillance’ with the help of Aadhar and PAN cards, geared to track every voice of dissent against the Modi regime and name it ‘anti-national’. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA 2019) is an effective arsenal to unleash enforcement agencies so the present leadership remains ‘safe’.
The sudden decision of implementing Demonetization in 2016 on the pretext of curbing counterfeit currencies being smuggled by terrorists, was later justified in several web series streaming on leading OTT platforms, but they are mere thrillers rather than optics of ‘fact’ is well-known to the viewers. And, as far as the stunting of the black money is concerned, the result is nothing but a big zero. That the abrupt announcement of giving a specific time to change the existing currency notes was more of a litmus test for the regime to see if it could perpetrate a generic change among the voters by the administrative power at their disposal. They did, indeed.
Later, just before the General Election in 2019, the attack on army vehicles carrying the arsenal at Pulwama in Kashmir was more of a ploy to arouse nationalist sentiment to vote for Modi again. It is clear as daylight even to the biggest Modi loyalists. Satyapal Malik, the then Governor of Jammu & Kashmir’s testimony not only embarrassed the Modi-ite but also made the general voters of the country shudder at the indiscriminate and reckless uses of power to retain dominance.
In fact, Modi’s silence about his affiliation with Gautam Adani had helped other optics to grow and spread. The assertion and statistical jugglery of his Finance Minister to position India as a 5-trillion economy turned into a hoax when she failed to stop the rate of inflation and rise in the Common Price Index (CPI) in the county.
The COVID pandemic and the long-standing phases of lockdowns in the country have depleted the resources of the common man. These two years of vacuous days filled with propaganda by the mainstream media was the time when the Adani, and his like, were reaching astronomical heights in accumulating wealth in connivance with the regime. Despite attempts to deflect the public attention (barring Rahul Gandhi’s parliamentarian status, ruckus created during Ram Navami etc.) optics again go against the present regime. One of its most recent indicators is the 63% denial of listeners compelled to hear Modi’s Mann Ki Baat.
Disillusionment about the present regime’s invincibility is apparent as the nation inches forward to the General Election of 2024. The giant vote machine that the BJP could garner by dividing people into a binary will be put to the test. And, to stand against that massive machinery, the opposition forces are, unfortunately, still fragmented. Will the Congress pit Priyanka Gandhi as a substitute for Rahul Gandhi? The names of leaders like Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar and the like are yet to ally publicly.
Recently, Nitish Kumar met Mamata Banerjee at her house and then addressed the press to start the consolidation of an anti-BJP movement from Bihar. The journalists, both veteran and young, did not lose the opportunity to help their readers recall those days, about 50 years ago, when the leaders, then, consolidated themselves to bring an end to the Emergency Indira Gandhi had imposed. So, a possibility of a tectonic change does emerge here. At the same time, another question can be asked. Will Nitish Kumar be able to assume the role Jayprakash Narayan had played?
5th June, 1974: That was when the opposition parties united against Indira Gandhi at Gandhi Maidan in Patna. A year later, the salvo of this united voice triggered the then Prime Minister to impose a state of Emergency in the country on 24th June, 1975. Arrest of journalists, dissenters and the common man by the implementation of MISA, rampantly, across the country revealed the true face of repression (some, however, cherished punctuality of public transport, the government offices showed extraordinary efficiency!). But then the seed of dissent grew with collective nurturing and became a giant tree to baffle the raging storm of the machinery. Strangely, they, including Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and many other ‘margdarshaks’ of BJP – all of them, then, gave voice to the movement against the Congress and how it had plundered democracy. Now, the Congress, along with others, is echoing the same against the BJP!
But coming back to the point. The convenor of the new alliance is Nitish Kumar, who still adheres to Janta Dal (United). And, Jayaprakash Narayan was the singular adhering force who was able to bring all the political parties in opposition under one umbrella – and the leaders included Morarji Desai, Jagjivan Ram and the fiery George Fernandes. Today, while most political parties want to unite against the giant election machine called BJP, the equation has become more complex.
Take Mamata Banerjee as a factor. And there are the Leftists who want to crush her alliance with the Congress. Despite all the corruption charges, the members of TMC, her party, are facing presently, there is a unanimity that only Mamata carries enough fire in her to counter the forces unleashed by Modi-Shah led BJP on an open street. Most opposition parties and leaders are now engaged in fighting against others like AAP and Congress rather than pinpointing the common enemy.
We are yet to know if Devegowda and his party have come to terms with Congress in Karnataka Assembly Election. If they had by now, BJP would have been vanquished before even the Election result was announced. So, harshly speaking, Modi-Shah have at their disposal not only the state machinery but some crucial opposition leaders, albeit clandestinely. Navin Patnaik is only interested in retaining power in his state, that is Odisha. K. Chandrashekhar Rao in Telangana remains cornered. The only other force to reckon with is Nitish Kumar, who has on his side Tejaswi and Akhilesh, sons of Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav.
BJP is aware that if the opposition parties come together, Modi and Shah will have to add an ‘ex’ before their names. Because, they don’t have scope to expand BJP in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, too, witnessed the vortex of intra-party conflict in local leaderships. As per the circumstance, the dream of the Modi-led BJP to return to power will probably be unfulfilled.
And, to neutralize the probability factor, Nitish Kumar has to be magnanimous, like Jayaprakash Narayan was, to invite K. Chandrasekhar, M.K. Stalin and Navin Patnaik and strengthened the opposition unity. The vacillation of Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, and the BJP’s attempt to tie up with Akali Dal in Punjab, is not sending the right signals to all those craving the present tyranny to end.
Bihar, under Nitish Kumar’s leadership, has transformed from what it was a few decades ago. While his alliance with BJP raised suspicion, his severing the ties with it, after a bitter honeymoon, has resumed hope in Nitish’s vision. But will the vision be executed, unless the leaders of allying parties resolve their internal differences for the sake of a bigger cause?
Let this be very clear that BJP thrives even in 2023 because the party is sure that it will reap the harvest of vote division across the country. If this larger picture is denied, and a status quo mentality persists among the regional players, there won’t be any quake. The social engineering of BJP, and therefore the tectonic plate, that is Bihar, will remain stable like it was in 2019.