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  Opinion   Columnists  09 Feb 2024  Sunil Gatade | BJP, party in a hurry, puts allies at risk, not just Opposition

Sunil Gatade | BJP, party in a hurry, puts allies at risk, not just Opposition

The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.
Published : Feb 9, 2024, 12:08 am IST
Updated : Feb 9, 2024, 12:08 am IST

BJP's relentless expansion, alleged election rigging & strategic political moves cast shadow on democratic integrity & opposition resilience

BJP's moves and opposition counterplays redefine the dynamics of Indian governance. (Representational image: AFP)
 BJP's moves and opposition counterplays redefine the dynamics of Indian governance. (Representational image: AFP)

The BJP is, of course, a party in a hurry. Not content with the tag of becoming the world’s largest party, it still wants to spread far and wide in every nook and corner of the country. That too at breakneck speed. Like the late Dhirubhai Ambani’s “Only Vimal” punchline for his textile brand, the world’s largest democracy should have “Only BJP”, or so goes the underlying understated argument.

This causes accidents, as happened in the Chandigarh mayoral election recently. The BJP won the controversial election, but the AAP and the Congress have alleged that it was rigged as eight of their votes had been declared invalid. The matter has gone to the Supreme Court, and the Chief Justice of India and other judges had some harsh things to say about the conduct of the returning officer. A hearing is coming up in the apex court later this month. The Opposition fears that if the BJP can go to such an extent in a mayoral election, what would it do in the Lok Sabha polls that is looming ahead. A tainted election has cast a shadow on the conduct of the Lok Sabha election. Trust goes for a toss when an election becomes tainted.

Interestingly, all accidents do not happen accidentally. Everything is fair in love, war and elections, or so goes the ruling party’s belief ever since Narendra Modi emerged on the national scene a decade back.

A prominent Opposition party sought an appointment with the Election Commission on the EVM issue, but has yet to get time for the past four months. There are reports that a state-owned undertaking which makes EVMs has four leaders from the BJP as directors.

The Prime Minister needs a third term almost as a right. The Opposition looks like a babe in the woods caught in a deep dark web. The BJP’s “bulldozer” strategy is aimed at seeing itself entrenched in power even till 2047, when India celebrates 100 years of Independence. The pot is being kept boiling after the inauguration of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir. The Gyanvapi Masjid is back in the news, and a puja is being allowed in some parts of it. The Uniform Civil Code issue is being hotted up in some BJP-ruled states, while the government says implementation of the controversial CAA will soon start. The PM will also inaugurate a temple in Abu Dhabi this month, which will be used as a booster to Ayodhya.

Despite the ED, CBI, I-T department and other investigative agencies working overtime, the likes of Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal are busy protecting their turf, unconcerned or unaware about the big picture. Former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren’s forced resignation, and arrest by the ED, has given quite a few anxious moments to the Opposition. 

Whether true or false, Arvind Kejriwal claims he is being harassed for not joining the BJP bandwagon. The BJP’s dream of total domination is sought to be realised by tightening the screws on non-BJP governments.

Those who never participated in the freedom struggle now feel it is child’s play to “divide and rule” till eternity. It is a strange and chilling thought in a parliamentary democracy.

The Centre has spent over Rs 1.5 crore on setting up photo booths at railway stations where the public can take selfies with images of Narendra Modi, apparently aimed at showing to the world that there is only one leader around when India is at the cusp of change.

The media, especially television, is bent on virtually ignoring the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, lest the message go out that an effort, however feeble, is on to build an alternative narrative.

At such a challenging time, Bihar, which has always stood with anti-establishment politics, has turned topsy-turvy. Known for its politically intense character, the state has now become the key base for the ruling establishment, with chief minister Nitish Kumar changing sides almost overnight. The Paltu Ram from Patna is poking fun at the Opposition, whose PM candidate he had sought to become not too long ago.

Mr Kumar, despite having the tag of the longest-serving Bihar CM, might go down in history as the slimiest character in socialist politics, who colluded with the ruling establishment when much was at stake for Indian democracy. His departure is a huge blow for the Opposition’s INDIA bloc which, paradoxically, he had initially helped to establish.

Some claim that Mr Kumar, a loner, is unwell and that is affecting the health of Indian democracy. If true, that is a much deeper tragedy.

There is a method in the madness of what has happened in Maharashtra over a year back and still looks like a work in progress. Two regional parties in the state have been split to allow greater leverage for the BJP in the state. The BJP’s problem is that despite catapulting from No. 4 position to No. 1 in the wake of the emergence of Narendra Modi on the national scene in May 2014, it has failed to come to power on its own in the state. The “Hindu Hriday Samrat” from neighbouring Gujarat is unable to make deep inroads in Maharashtra, which has long remained Congress-minded.

Hence, the Shiv Sena, the oldest ideological ally of the BJP, is sought to be decimated, decapitated and demolished bit by bit through the rebellion of Eknath Shinde, now chief minister. The fault of Uddhav Thackeray was that instead of remaining a satellite in the Modi-led BJP, he tried the experiment of tying up with the Congress through Sharad Pawar. Both are now marked men for the BJP in Maharashtra and so the situation is becoming messier by the day.

Bihar, like Maharashtra, has been a difficult nut to crack for the BJP despite getting substantial numbers in the Lok Sabha in the past decade. The inability to throw up a state leader so far has brought the BJP to the door of Nitish Kumar over the past two decades. Mr Kumar and his party are at their lowest ebb since the last Assembly polls and therefore it is time for the BJP to make the most of the situation through the new arrangement in the Lok Sabha polls.

It has long been the BJP’s dream to turn Bihar and Maharashtra like their neighbours Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. The “Mumbai-Chandigarh via Patna Express” shows that the battle for dominance is intensifying every day.

Tags: bharatiya janata party (bjp), chandigarh, 2024 lok sabha elections