Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury
Politics is not for the weak heart and winning is part, an integral part, of the game. And BJP proves it again.
Former editor and writer Harivansh Narain Singh, first time MP in Rajya Sabha and from Janata Dal (United), and someone known for an ethical public life, has scored an easy victory as NDA candidate from the government side, with 122 votes, and takes over as the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament. The man, known for a Spartan and Gandhian lifestyle, is not a traditional run of the mill politician and is expected to bring one notch higher standard in the conduction of the Upper House of the Parliament.
Now, going beyond the person and the result, what led to this outcome in a poll which was open on both sides, unlike the earlier No Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha which was stacked heavily against the Opposition? And what do we read out of this?
Seven points I would like to mention here.
First, the Modi-Shah electoral machinery within and beyond the Parliament is powerful, ruthless and capable of last minute surprises, through sam, dam, dand and bhed. Politics is not for the weak heart and winning is part, an integral part, of the game. Amit Shah proves it again.
Second, the allies of NDA are just hard-bargaining without any desire to desert the Modi-Shah camp. Janata Dal (United) is won over again, for 2019, with its candidate being elected. Nitish Kumar personally contacted several parties of which some voted for his candidate and some abstained, but all ‘helped’ him see his Man Friday win today.
Shiv Sena, which voted for Congress Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil in the past on the ground that she is a Marathi Manushi, did not have that approach when Vandana Chavan’s (NCP) name came up as the united Opposition candidate in spite of being a very efficient former Pune Mayor, and hence she withdrew, and BK Hariprasad, of Congress, was put up by the opposition. Sena, which claims to fight the ensuing Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha polls all by itself, did not even abstain and actually voted for the government. Akali Dal, which had its own long-term Parliamentarian, Naresh Gujral, as a probable candidate for this post, swallowed its pride and voted for the government. So, it is clear: JDU, Shiv Sena and SAD have nowhere else to go in 2019.
Third, we have known the fence-sitters who shall in all probability join the NDA, if it wins again, post polls in 2019. They are Biju Janata Dal, Telengana Rashtra Samiti, AIADMK and YSR Congress. AIADMK is gasping for breath, broken virtually into three camps, united only by the spoils of power in Chennai today, and facing an acute crisis of leadership post Jayalalitha’s demise. It also faces a resurgent DMK there in spite of the death of MK Karunanidhi as the succession plan with Stalin is in place. For BJD and TRS, it is purely opportunism, and the fact that they face Congress as a bigger threat than BJP in their respective states, Odisha and Telengana.
Fourth, it is clear that Aam Admi Party will not go with the BJP, but Congress is still not ready to do business with AAP in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana where all the party has some influence. But AAP and Congress going separate ways in these three states in Lok Sabha polls, is automatic Advantage BJP, which the Congress leadership, blinded by Ajay Maken in Delhi and Capt Amrinder Singh in Punjab, is failing to understand.
Fifth, surely the Opposition alliance is still a lot of talk and rhetoric, and less in reality on grounds, and has no clear agenda or common minimum program in place. Even the alliance of leaders and parties is also at an elementary stage and they are basking in the glory of just BSP-SP-Congress-RLD coming close in UP; and, TMC ready to do some business with Congress in Bengal. The opposition, to remain relevant and in the fray for 2019, must urgently put up an agenda of governance with regional aspirations and demands incorporated apart from specific plan and policies for people in various walks of life. Such an agenda may be one for consideration of the regional parties who abstained or even voted for the government. Also, for example, today, apart from the RS election, there are protests by farmers, Dalits, minorities and armed forces veterans in various parts of the country, all targeted against the government of the day. But the opposition has no clear agenda for them too.
Sixth, one-to-one contest between BJP and United Opposition is a chimera. There shall be triangular contests in many states as situation stands today, some by the nature of the parties and their unclear strategies there (like Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala etc) and some for the fact that a direct contest may actually benefit BJP (like in West Bengal, some Northeast states, etc).
Seventh, Maharashtra, UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are the states which will hold the key to the formation of the next government. And both the groups of NDA and Opposition would do it well to recognize the regional parties and their aspirations to keep stoking their desires of coming to power since the regional parties hold the key this time to the final results, more than ever before, as demonstrated even in this election in the Rajya Sabha.
Now the battle shifts from the Parliament to the heat, dust and rains of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, where all there is a straight fight between BJP and Congress. How Congress can take along BSP and the Left with it in these states and how effectively it can cash on some amount of perceived anti-incumbency in all these BJP governed states, will determine the contours of the ‘united opposition’ and its chances ahead. Even in these states, the Congress alliance or agenda are still not in place, though the state polls are in the next 100 days.
(The Author is currently the School Head, School of Media, Pearl Academy, Delhi and Mumbai. He has been earlier the Dean of Symbiosis and Amity Universities. The views expressed are strictly his personal.)
(The views and opinions expressed in this article are of the author and thus do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy or position of OdishaLIVE.)