An Indian view on history, current affairs and politics

May 1, 2017

The failed opposition

failed opposition

Recent assembly election results threw up an anomaly. An aberration in what was supposed to be a 4-0 clean sweep for BJP. The anomaly was Delhi. The result was surprising in many ways. The BJP which won 2/3rd majority in Rajasthan and M.P stopped just 4 short of majority. Congress was decimated and went down from 43 to 8. AAP the underdog rose from Nil to 28. Result was interpreted in a million different ways. The group generally termed as LIMP (liberal, intellectual, media and politicians) used it to dismiss the Modi wave. AAP on the other hand viewed it as a thumping victory. BJP found solace in the fact that they were the largest party.

BJP needs to do some soul searching. Delhi was theirs for the taking. Congress was prepared for the loss. The magnitude was surprising but the loss wasn’t. The fact that BJP failed to garner majority indicates failure at local level. The reason is not as simple as a failed Modi wave. After all, it did work in other three states. Dismissing Modi impact would be as naive as dismissing Arvind Kejriwal and his brand of politics.

The reason why BJP lagged and why AAP performed exceedingly well is the same. AAP did what BJP should have been doing as the principal opposition party. They read the public disenchantment with the ruling disposition well and took over the role of opposition. BJP sat in opposition for 15 years. There were several issues during this period that enraged the local populace. Yet one never witnessed BJP leading an aggressive campaign. The perception BJP gave was that it had some sort of tacit understanding with congress which is why there never was a concerted attempt to corner Congress.

The party with a difference was no different from Congress in Delhi. The leadership was seen as corrupt and did not offer any hope. They failed to spot issues that were affecting the public and seemed very comfortable in their roles as opposition until AAP arrived on the scene. Fresh from their success in Janlokpal agitation, they latched on to local issues and went to town with it. While BJP leaders were busy releasing press notes, attending TV debates, AAP folks were slugging it out in the streets. None of the exposes by AAP were new. Most were at some point been raised by BJP or someone else but AAP did the hard work and made a hue and cry about it.

In absence of AAP, BJP would have easily made the government in Delhi but they lost a major portion of potential gains in vote share due to their own incompetence. They failed to realize real battle had to be fought in the streets among people and not in media. Fortunately for BJP, Modi did get some positive vote swings through his rallies and projection of Dr. Harshvardhan but Modi can only do so much in a state election being fought on local issues.

The situation is no different at national scale. In a decade, Congress did almost everything imaginable which could have costed them the government at center. From unemployment, price rise, poor infrastructure to a sinking economy all most everything imaginable happened and yet one can not cite a single instance when BJP posed a real challenge for the government. Emboldened Congress plundered the country with monumental scams and all BJP did was stalling parliament, press conferences and TV debates. BJP gave so much space to congress that a massive Janlokpal movement arose in between. No wonder the protesters equated BJP with the Congress and called both corrupt. The lack of strong opposition from BJP only fueled the suspicion of collusion among both.

That BJP has been a divided house is a no secret. Right from central to state leadership, you can find people with bloated egos and narrow minds who don’t mind rocking the boat unless they’re appeased. The Advani camp has been sulking for long and can be credited with deliberate silence and sabotaging party’s chances through inaction. The BJP leadership at center lacks leaders of popular support. They are comfortable in the cosy confines of their Lutyens bungalow.

BJP allowed AAP to form government because of two reasons. Firstly AAP raised the political discourse to a level where horse trading would have been suicidal. Secondly AAP as the principal opposition would be too hot to handle specially in an election year. Having set the agenda, AAP is now in an advantageous position from all angles. BJP needs to learn a lot from AAP. They’ve conclusively proven that the real win can still be driven by old school methods of agitation and protests coupled with innovative use of social media.

Modi has done a lot for BJP but the party is carrying a huge burden of grumpy old leaders and incompetent strategists. Modi needs a radical and aggressive shift in priorities to bring the party out of slumber it has been in for a decade and shape up for upcoming polls.

  • Paritosh

    We very often come across respectable people calling the “Delhi” leadership rudderless, weak and just not good enough! That can arguably be a valid point, no doubt. But instead of simply echoing what has been said so many times by so many individuals, Sir, will you please come up with a questionnaire and/or suggestions for the same Delhi leadership which, for reasons known only to those who call it weak, fails to impress you?
    That will be something constructive and also helpful for the BJP and the people, at large.

    • Ratnesh

      Author has already given the clue and suggested from where BJP can learn i.e AAP . Media , Social media will alone not work unless you join yourself with the general public .
      What you are doing is What BJP has done for years. Not listening or reading the mind of people. Congress was not strong , but it was the lack of proper and methodical strategy which was keeping BJP away from power. Even BJP comes to power not they must do something concrete otherwise this time AAP is consuming major Vote bank of Congress party next time it will from BJP as well.
      Now its time to ACT rather than talking….If.doing rallies will make difference I will start from now onward. Its the stopping of nonsense and acting sensible will make the difference.

  • Spandan Thakur

    Out of the 65yrs democracy we have wasted almost 55yrs on Congress governments which has costed the country very dearly. This happened because of the lack of credible oppositions at the national as well as state level. Maharashtra is bleeding with very bad governance for the last decade & BJP failed to come to power in last 3 successive elections. The call for BJP to be a better opposition is definitely increasing now. I see this as a desperation on the side of people who badly want to keep the congress away from the center. But somehow the BJP leadership in Delhi is deaf to these calls 7 hence the frustration. The current dissent against BJP is not for the party it is but more on the Delhi leadership which is deaf to the calls from regional constituents. The BJP needs some one who can talk sense at the central leadership rather than leaders who just keep harping anti congress rhetoric’s. Anti congressism is no direct ticket to winning polls. The faster the BJP folks at Delhi realise the better it will be for the party & the nation.

    • prateek mishra

      BJP’s failure has been to force an alternative & more people oriented narrative. What it has done was only reacting to Governments mishaps without suggesting a credible alternative. Its that lack of credible alternative narrative that people are missing from BJP & hence they are hurt. The party with a difference did not change the course of discourse with a good sound alternatives which people are looking for. For example the Anna constituency was able to catch the imagination of a few in the civil society with their tirade for a strong Janlokpal which i myself disagree. But it did divert the attention of the country & created a narrative for anti corruption in the country. Because of a lack of meaningful discourse from the opposition the people latched on to Anna as they were already fed up with the mis governance from UPA2. Anna wouldn’t have had the success he got had the opposition did not leave that space empty. Thats were the BJP as a principle opposition failed. It failed to catch the imagination of the people who made them the main opposition in the current edition of our parliament. I agree that the BJP need not agree with all that the government does & yes its not the job of the opposition to govern. But it is the responsibility of the opposition to keep the governments in check & ensure the nation doesnt suffer. A reactive opposition is only as good as a bad government at the helm. We need a proactive opposition who can keep the discourse / narrative going in the national interest. The opposition will have to seige every opportunity that comes its way to create an alternative template and for it to make way to come to power in the next given opportunity.

  • Subash

    One more point. Its easy for us sitting here and typing key strokes. Just like when you watch Sachin or Virender playing on the field and getting bowled or caught for low score, its easy for us to curse them from the comfort of stadium stands. But going out there playing and actually scoring is another matter.
    Criticism is necessary and helps but we should also provide good feedback for improvement as well. AAP accomplished something like Lalu when he started or many other examples. Nothing ground breaking here. Only difference is Media is exaggerating what AAP accomplished purposely to put brakes on Modi.
    If there is one entity that is more corrupt than Congress it is the Media. They are scared of Modi. If media were doing their job, Congress would not have gotten away with so much for so long. Democracy needs honest effective 4th estate(press) besides a good opposition.

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