Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr is a Delhi-based journalist, who’s worked with Indian Express in multiple editions, and with DNA in Delhi. He has also written for Deccan Herald, Times of India, Gulf News (Dubai), Daily Star (Beirut) and Today (Singapore). He is now Senior Editor with Parliamentarian
There is reason enough for West Bengal Chief Minister and All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC) chief Mamata Banerjee to feel triumphant that she had managed to bring together a large number of opposition parties in the country on the same platform, though there are quite a few of them who are left out including the Left parties – the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Communist Party of India (CPI).
It is indeed the case that the Communists do not have much to contribute to the Opposition tally in the Lok Sabha elections this April-May. The moot question is whether the Opposition parties which share an anti-BJP, anti-Modi sentiment can work together to combine their numbers and provide an alternative to the BJP and Mr Narendra Modi.
If the TMC does well in West Bengal, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh, Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu, and they can hold together in the moment of victory, then there is a chance for the anti-BJP alliance to emerge as a national alternative.
But then there is a big if. First, these parties must do well in their respective states, and then they must stand together. It is possible that these parties will hang together if they win enough number of seats because they sense that if the BJP gets a second term at the Centre, then they will all be marginalised.
This is indeed the reading of the political experts, and the opposition leaders seem to concur with this view.
The BJP for its part wants to win the parliamentary elections as well as the assembly elections. It wants to dominate the country’s politics at all levels. It wants to reign supreme in the country as did the Congress from 1952 to 1971 and again from 1980 to 1989.But it is unlikely to happen.
The victory of the BJP under Mr Narendra Modi in 2014 is to be compared to the performance of the Congress in the 1967 elections, when it lost its dominance in the Lok Sabha. The Congress had lost the elections in many of the states, starting with Tamil Nadu, when the undivided DMK came to power under CN Annadurai, and the now defunct Swatantra Party, founded by C Rajagopalachari, formed governments in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Odisha, and the Samyukt Vidhayak Dal (SVD) under Charan Singh in Uttar Pradesh in that momentous year of 1967.
The BJP in 2019 could be faced with a similar situation. It would not be a dominant party in the Lok Sabha and it will have to depend on the allies more than it did in 2014. And in the assembly elections that are to follow the Lok Sabha elections and in 2020, it may not remain in power in states like Haryana, Maharashtra and Bihar.
For many people, the emergence of what is described as a rag-tag coalition of the disparate parties that Mamata Banerjee had gathered in Kolkata, or a weakened BJP is an undesirable thing because they believe that India needs a unified political leadership and not a divided one. The argument finds favour with the middle class across the country.
But the logic of democracy is not the same as that of the middle class. The fact that no single party will emerge strong and unchallenged is what keeps Indian democracy vibrant.
Whether it is Mamata Banerjee’s mahagatbandhan or Modi’s BJP that wins the Lok Sabha election, it will not translate into unchallenged dominance. The different parties in the country will be constantly challenging each other, and that is what will keep these parties on their toes. The BJP under party president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Modi will unleash all the aggression it commands, but the aggression may not pay off.
The opposition parties do not sound as aggressive as the BJP’s Shah and Modi, but they may win the election at the end of the day. The BJP will be tempted to underestimate the strength of the splintered opposition, and it is this overconfidence of the ruling party that will be its undoing.