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  Opinion   Columnists  07 Mar 2024  Sunil Gatade | Despite massive blows, Opp.seems still alive and kicking

Sunil Gatade | Despite massive blows, Opp.seems still alive and kicking

The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.
Published : Mar 8, 2024, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Mar 8, 2024, 12:00 am IST

The BJP encounters challenges as the Opposition INDIA grouping gains momentum, signaling a tough battle in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections

A section of the Opposition has huge doubts over the EVM issue and the queries have been stonewalled. The electoral bonds issue has already exposed the game of the rulers. (Representational Photo: AFP)
 A section of the Opposition has huge doubts over the EVM issue and the queries have been stonewalled. The electoral bonds issue has already exposed the game of the rulers. (Representational Photo: AFP)

It is not good news for the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The Opposition INDIA grouping, which was declared virtually dead last month, appears to be more than alive. This month will show how much it is alive and kicking when the nitty-gritty of the campaign is decided or rolled out.

The Opposition’s recent Maharally in Patna was a mammoth affair, signalling that it has much muscle in this key northern state despite Nitish Kumar turning “Paltu Ram”.

It has been especially so after the BJP came out with the first list of 195 candidates, showing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is playing it safe to avert implosion of any kind. He wants roses for a third term so that the “lotus” will bloom. The almost lacklustre list betrays a lack of self-confidence when the BJP is putting up a brave face to make mincemeat of rivals.

It also begs the question: Why was there such a tearing hurry to come out with the first list even before the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll schedule?

The sacking of four sitting BJP MPs in Delhi indicates that the BJP has its back to the wall in the national capital in the wake of the AAP-Congress alliance. A section of the BJP had been cautioning against not being too hard on Arvind Kejriwal, lest it boomerang.

The BJP’s worst fears might be coming true. With its diverse population, Delhi is a sort of “mini-India”, and therefore a test case of which way the winds are blowing.

This growing index of Opposition unity has to be more a matter of concern for the Prime Minister, who is moving heaven and earth to come up the winner in this battle, which looks heavily loaded in favour of the ruling BJP at the moment.

BJP veteran L K Advani had famously declared in 2004: The Congress won the first five Lok Sabha elections, from 1952 to 1971, essentially because the Opposition parties, compared to the Congress, were all minuscule parties, and furthermore were sharply fragmented.

A touchstone of possible poll outcomes in those days used to be: at a given point of time, what is the Opposition Unity Index?

This time, the BJP has declared “Ab ki Baar, 400 Paar” on the back of what it perceives as a “Ram lahar”. It also wants more than 50 per cent votes, a tall order. In the game of elections, bluffing and bluster too are among the most effective weapons.

If, and that is a big IF, the coming elections are going to be free and fair, then the world’s largest party has to fight every inch of the way if there is no euphoria like the one in 2019 after the Balakot airstrikes, which were exploited to the hilt by Narendra Modi and his well-oiled poll machine. Only the PM and home minister Amit Shah know what is up their sleeve now. Experts feel the BJP can’t win an election unless there is an emotive issue.

A section of the Opposition has huge doubts over the EVM issue and the queries have been stonewalled. The electoral bonds issue has already exposed the game of the rulers.

The BJP is not a laggard in any way, and most of its rank and file feel the battle has already been won. The BJP has taken the lead in every way, with radio and TV channels projecting that Mr Modi is the only one who is in the fray at a time when the elections are yet to be announced. The publicity blitzkrieg would even make Josef Goebbels blush.

The BJP’s breakneck speed shows that it has either failed to get the big picture or it believes that 2024 is a done deal. For the keen outsider, the BJP seems directionless, hoping its election department, better known as the ED, has done a sufficient job of pulverising the Opposition.

Promising everything to everyone without any work on the ground is not called strategy.

Mr Modi looks like a confused cook who has been unable to grasp which recipe will click in the Masterchef contest and, therefore, dishing out everything to look like it is a grand feast.

A third term, and that too with a massive win, is no child’s play. The promises in the last 10 years are like an albatross around the neck of the PM. The farmers’ protest at the gates of the national capital is a stark reminder of the promises and the performance. The more the protests spread, the bigger the problem for the ruling party. The veneer of a “strong leader” is coming in the way of understanding the real issues, and no one has the guts to say that the “emperor has no clothes”.

The repeated promises about a “Viksit Bharat” ahead does not make India a land of milk and honey, nor the assertions that the country will soon become the world’s third-largest economy. The castles in the air built on those dreams remain far away from reality.

These dreams were built on the collapse of the Opposition INDIA bloc on the back of Nitish Kumar’s desertion, followed by Jayant Chaudhary’s antics and some unpalatable statements by Mamata Banerjee. But the doughty Congress has walked like a tortoise and surprised the world’s largest party by fashioning alliances in several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi, and remained on the steady path to stitch more.

It’s not exactly that the slow and steady wins the race in modern times, but it also means that such an entity cannot be taken lightly. The battle is being taken to the BJP’s turf, slowly and silently, and Uttar Pradesh is a prime example.

In the changed scenario, it would be foolhardy to claim that the BJP and its allies could win 80 seats out of 80 in this politically most crucial state. The advertising blitzkrieg by the Yogi Adityanath government may have created the illusion that “Ram Rajya” has arrived, but the reality still bites.

The BJP’s problem is that all Opposition parties are not Mayawati, who like an ostrich has put her head in the sand to remain unaffected by the storm. “Modi hai to mumkin hai” has rattled the rest of the Opposition, which knows that the road ahead is treacherous and difficult. They also know that there is a rainbow at the end of the tunnel, and for that they have to cross the minefield.

 

Tags: 2024 lok sabha elections, opposition unity, electoral strategy