An Indian view on history, current affairs and politics

June 1, 2023

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.