What Oppn Can Learn From BJP

15 August 2022, India and Indians have travelled a long way on the road to democracy during the last 75 years. We have every reason to be proud of our country and its achievements. The government has planned big events across the country to commemorate the 75 years of Independence as ‘Amrit Mahotsav’.

However, the critics of the current government say that the Indian democracy is under siege. They point out further that Indian democracy is in serious decline according to major international democracy rankings, or that India may no longer be a democracy at all. They allegedly claim that the deterioration in the quality of Indian democracy has only accelerated since the 2019 re-election of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

What the critics say

Critics also allege that due to the social engineering initiated by the BJP, historically oppressed Bahujan (backward) communities who do not conform to the image of a good Hindu are sought to be marginalised as do the religious minorities who find themselves identified as internal enemies.

Bemoaning further they allege that liberals and leftists, activists who have raised issues of the environment and human rights, and anyone else perceived to be “anti-national” have been included to the list of internal enemies.

They turn hoarse saying dissent is muzzled, increasingly through official edicts. Old controversies like in Mathura and Varanasi over temples and mosques are reignited, and claims that mosques were built upon the demolition of temples have resurfaced.

They allege that the social fabric knitted together by India’s diverse communities is being torn and new religious flashpoints have been created

But here it would be pertinent to note that India shares its democratic degradation with many other countries across the world. This process has been variously described as authoritarian, populist, ethnocratic, exclusionary and fascist.

But to be sure, the dominant groups in ethnocracies value democracy – at least for themselves – and often take pride in their democratic institutions. But a polity based on the structural exclusion of a section of its population cannot reasonably be said to qualify as a democracy.

India under Modi

Indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone on to extol India as the mother of all democracies, invoking the country’s heritage of participatory decision-making and checks and balances.

However, all these shrill noises of criticism and dissent beg a question. If all these accusations are true, then what has prevented the other political parties of India to prevent this bulldozing by the BJP and adopt the practices and systems which have made the BJP – a party which it is today.

Critics say that mobilisation of interest groups and booth management efforts are underway in full swing as is the momentum for the next general elections. Is there anything that can stop the BJP juggernaut?

There is a good reason why the BJP is in power in 18 states out of 28, and has more than 400 members in Parliament, and 1,300 legislators in state assemblies.

Driving the party is its ‘here and now’ approach. There is no room for political complacency – with an energetic prime minister who communicates with the people directly; there is simply no other option for the karyakartas (workers).

Contrast this with other political parties, BJP’s careful planning, managing its cadres and execution resulted in these victories, whereas the GOP of India i.e. the Indian National Congress had lost the plot much before the 2014 elections.

Opposition parties

The INC it seems had taken the electorate for granted, the young emerging leadership of the party was side-lined by the old satraps, its party management at the legislative and ground-level both had floundered completely. I myself had witnessed 2 general elections in UP before 2014, where at booth level the party had no both agents or managers to manage the voters.

We also should not forget the long list of communal riots, which happened under the Congress rule: from Moradabad to Aligarh to Bhagalpur to Nellie, Assam. The long process to bring the culprits to justice, the court ruling in Hashimpura case came after 31 years of the massacre.

It claimed to be concerned for Muslims but in fact no confirmatory action was taken by any Congress-led government after the Ranganath Misra Commission’s report of 2004 or Sachar Committee’s report of 2006. So the words were only hollow with no concerted action forthcoming.

Before that the Communists, too had lost the plot completely. Their rout was more or less linked to the booming of the Indian economy after India opened up its economy and the market reforms rolled in. The middle class which now had access to more consumer goods and could aspire to a more lavish life style, had no place for the politics of demonstrations and agitations.

The other smaller parties like the Samajwadi or the RJD or the NC, except the south Indian parties were interested in furthering their own petty selfish goals and they were nearly decimated under the BJP juggernaut.

As far as the minorities of India are concerned and particularly the largest minority i.e. the Muslims, they themselves are to be blamed for their woes.

After independence the community as a whole seems to have withdrawn into a shell. It was not seen as part of the Indian mainstream, their self-promoting leaders kowtowed to their political masters by assuring them of the Muslims’ votes for their own personal benefit.

These leaders failed to drive their community to a path of greater learning and become an essential part in the growth of the country, as the other minorities like Sikhs and Parsis did. By neglecting this they neglected their own growth also.

Future scenario

Right now it is a Right-wing push that is dictating the frenetic pace of statecraft now, but there is nothing wrong in this, as the right wing has come to power using the democratic tools available to every party.

If the political critics of the BJP bemoan the so-called social engineering engineered by the BJP, use of social media to further its messaging, then who had stopped them to follow or use the same tools?

In an interview Badri Narayan, social historian, columnist, opined that there is no political party like the BJP anywhere, which starts working for elections two years in advance as well as governing, both at the same time. It is a mega political machine in every sense.

Senior academic and researcher at the LSE, Manisha Priyam has been quoted as saying that the BJP under Narendra Modi is an electoral party, more than an ideological one. It takes every election at every level very seriously, not just the Lok Sabha polls.

This makes us ponder what has stopped the other political parties from adopting the same strategy and planning? If they are not up to it then they themselves are to be blamed. No one else! Stop bemoaning! Get your act together!

After 75 years of independence, we Indians indeed need a new political system in the country, where every section could contribute and reap the benefits of progress and development, equally and which should put a stop to the political spoils of all political parties.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on issues related to Muslims, education, geopolitics and interfaith)

Opposition Still In Disarray To Counter Modi-Led BJP

While the Bharatiya Janata Party has managed to placate its sulking partners and finalized alliances with them well ahead of the upcoming seven-phase Lok Sabha polls, the dates for which were announced on March 10, opposition parties are still struggling to sink their differences and build a strong coalition to take on a resurgent BJP.

This is despite the fact that there is a sense of urgency in the opposition camp about the need to put their house in order as the BJP has a distinct political advantage over it after the Pulwama attack and the subsequent air strikes launched by India on terror camps in Pakistan.

As the biggest component of the opposition bloc, having a pan-India presence, the Congress is under pressure to demonstrate greater flexibility in forging alliances with regional parties, especially in view of the changed political scenario. Both Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N.Chandrababu Naidu had recently urged Congress president Rahul Gandhi to sort out outstanding issues with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the Aam Admi Party in Delhi. Besides these two states, the other trouble spot for the Congress is the politically-crucial state of Uttar Pradesh which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

Though the Pulwama attack has led to a rethink among the opposition leaders about alliances, they are still reluctant to cede space to each other as they see this as an opportunity to drive the best possible bargain in seat-sharing negotiations. In some cases, disputes between parties have come in the way of sealing a partnership and in other instances, resistance from within the ranks has stalled the formation of an opposition alliance.

Well aware that the pressure is on the Congress to accommodate its smaller partners, regional parties are playing hardball. Even parties like the Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar have negotiated hard to get the maximum number of seats from the Congress.

While the Congress has sealed an electoral pact in Karnataka, the party backed off from an alliance with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party in Delhi. The AAP leadership was keen on a partnership but the Congress party’s local unit did not favour an alliance with Kejriwal as it has not forgiven him for leading a campaign against the United Progressive Alliance government which eventually led to its humiliating defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Besides this trust deficit, the two parties were unable to arrive at a satisfactory seat-sharing formula. The AAP was not willing to give more than two of the seven Delhi Lok Sabha seats to the Congress but the grand old party wanted three which was not agreeable to Kejriwal. As a quid pro quo, the AAP wanted the Congress to accommodate it in Punjab and Haryana. This was not acceptable to the Congress which believes it can ill-afford to part with seats in these two states where it can do well on its own.

Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are the two big challenges before the Congress. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav have set aside their old rivalry and forged an alliance for the Lok Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh. It has set aside three seats for the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal and two for the Congress. Angry over this unilateral announcement, the Congress declared that it would contest all the 80 seats in the state and then followed it up by roping in Priyanka Gandhi to manage party affairs in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Post-Pulwama, Akhilesh Yadav is said to have realized that a split in the anti-BJP votes would end up helping the saffron party and has been in touch with Congress leaders about a possible understanding. However, Mayawati is adamant about not doing any business with the Congress. The BSP chief fears that the Congress can disturb her Dalit support base and she does not want to provide an opportunity to the Congress to revive itself in a state where it has been reduced to a bit player.

Moreover, Mayawati nurses Prime Ministerial ambitions. Unlike other regional players like Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati’s support base is not confined to one state as she believes she has the potential to tap into the Dalit sentiment across the country. Mayawati may be over-estimating her strength, given that her vote share has been on a decline over the years, but this has not stopped her from making a pitch for the top slot. In any case, she would not like to facilitate Rahul Gandhi’s ascent to power.

If Mayawati is proving to be a tough customer, it is not any easier to do business with the feisty Trinamool Congress chief  Mamata Banerjee. Like Mayawati, the West Bengal chief minister also has national ambitions. But unlike the BSP supremo, the Trinamool Congress chief has acknowledged that all opposition parties need to put up a united fight to battle the BJP. However, there is no clarity about how she plans to move ahead in that direction.

A little over a month ago, Mamata Banerjee declared that she was willing to align with the Congress and the Left parties at the national level to defeat the BJP. But at the same time, she said they would also compete against each other in the state. The Trinamool chief has suggested that the combined opposition field one candidate on each seat from a party which is best placed to defeat the BJP. However, others are not taken up with this idea. The West Bengal unit of the Congress has vehemently opposed an understanding with the Trinamool Congress as the two parties are locked in a bitter battle in the state.  

At the same time, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has offered a seat-sharing formula to the Congress in West Bengal. It has proposed that the two parties mutually agree not to fight each other in the six Lok Sabha seats currently held by the Congress and the Left party. However, the Congress is quibbling over the Raiganj constituency which was won by the CPM last time. Clearly, the opposition parties have a long distance to cover before they can iron out these glitches and be seen as a serious challenger to the BJP-led alliance. But with the general election round the corner, they do not have the luxury of time to sort out their differences. The disarray in the opposition camp stands out as a sharp contrast to the BJP which is far more organized and battle-ready for the upcoming all-important election.


#MyVote2019 – 'Oppn Rising Against Modi'

I like how decisive Modiji is and feel he is the kind of leader we have always needed. However, if he gets elected for a second term in office, he shouldn’t repeat the mistake of introducing one major reform after another. People need breathing space between big decisions like demonetisation and GST and they should be given time to adjust to huge and sudden changes like these. About the last-minute decision of this government to bring 10 per cent quota for economically weak sections, read upper castes, it is too early to comment.

Yes, I feel economically weaker families everywhere, irrespective of caste, creed or faith, must be helped to build themselves up. But how much this late decision will prove electorally beneficial for BJP is a gamble. My family and I personally didn’t suffer much during demonetisation. In my family there is a financial transparency and no one hides their savings or expenses from one another.

A major chunk of the sufferers during demonetisation were women who had hidden their savings from their families. I know it is a necessity in many cases, but I am glad Modiji made people more financially aware. Having said that I don’t think he should try something like this ever again if he comes to power. It’s not that I don’t like Congress.

I do. In fact, at the beginning of my career in the medical field, I was assigned VIP duty and had the privilege of meeting Rajiv Gandhi in person. But the charm, the silent leadership, the smile he brought on everyone’s faces, his magnetism is missing in both Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. I prefer Modiji because he has instilled a sense of seriousness in people.

The chalta hai attitude has been replaced in many a government office, and people are now more punctual as well as more serious with their work. Government banks now co-operate better with common people. Most businesses have gone online, which make it easier for working women like me, who otherwise needed to stand in line or spend precious time away from work for every little errand.

I feel next time, before announcing a big reform, he should allay people’s fears, rather than trying to do damage control after a reform. Basically he should let people know that he has thought things through and cares for them and is not being impulsive. His cabinet should also speak as one, rather than different people giving different reasons for why a particular step was taken, like happened in the case of demonetisation (the goalposts kept changing.

Sometimes it was to curb terrorism, sometime to remove black money from the system, sometimes to give a push to cashless transactions…). I like the dynamism and the optimism in Modiji’s personality and his no-nonsense attitude. Under his leadership, no one can afford to take India lightly on the international stage anymore.

Though the Modi government’s silence on incidents of lynchings and other human rights issue must be changed in his second term in office. It will be a more secure government then. (The narrator requested not to share her picture online. LokMarg has used a representational image)