The creation of INDIA appears to have forced a change in the government’s strategy of simply dismissing it.
If one were to go by their responses to the formation of the Opposition’s 26- party Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), it appears to have captured the attention of the ruling National Democratic Alliance and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an unprecedented manner.
The latest reaction from this camp is Mr Modi’s suggestion that INDIA is the most directionless Opposition he has ever encountered. The Prime Minister named three organisations, the East India Company, the Indian Mujahideen and the Popular Front of India, which are antithetical to the idea of India, in order to denounce the Opposition formation.
The NDA that came to power in 2014 was a formidable coalition with powerful components such as the Shiv Sena, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the AIADMK. It was backed by a host of civil society organisations. With the BJP getting a clear majority on its own in the Lok Sabha and the alliance, along with fence-sitting regional parties, having the number and skills to sail through the Rajya Sabha on key bills, Mr Modi very often ignored the presence of the Opposition.
The start of the second term was no different either: A BJP that returned to the Lok Sabha fortified by even greater numbers after the election despite desertion of key allies was all gung-ho and got parliamentary approval for controversial pieces of legislation such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the deactivation of Article 370 of the Constitution and the three farm laws.
The Opposition was unable to stop the government from making changes fundamental to the way India had been administered even while junior ministers perfected the art of trashing its leaders.
But the creation of INDIA, which is perhaps the first campaign that has successfully united most of the Opposition, appears to have forced a change in the government’s strategy of simply dismissing it. The Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka Assembly elections, and the unpredictability of the elections in the five states which are scheduled to elect their Legislative Assemblies later this year, must have added to its consternation. So much so, that the PM is making more references to his adversaries than ever before.
The decision of the BJP to have Mr Modi attend “cluster meetings” with members of Parliament belonging to the NDA is a sign of the alliance taking its opponents seriously for the first time. The BJP is making every effort not only to keep the allies in good humour but also to attract new ones. Even smaller parties with a command over a handful of Lok Sabha constituencies are finding a place in its scheme of things.
While it is welcome that the key players of the political arena make their positions unequivocally clear, they must remember that dealing with each other in a dignified way will only add to the prestige of the game and its participants. True, nationalism is the trump card the right wing uses all over the world, but our liberal democracy can surely invent better ways for the BJP and Mr Modi to take on their opponents. Let’s not insult the intelligence of the voter. The tactic of equating political opponents with ideas and names that he despises will not earn the BJP brownie points.