Opposition: ‘Unity Mantra’ to get reinforced

The impressive show by the Congress reducing BJP to below 100 seats in Gujarat will enthuse the Opposition to aggressively pursue the ‘unity mantra’ to bring around the ‘doubting Thomases’ in their stable.

The non-Congress opposition now believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s electoral invincibility is shaken, especially with the Gujarat results, and a campaign based on alternate policies and not on personalities would gain results in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

In the immediate future, the Congress will be facing the crucial Assembly polls in Karnataka next year with much more confidence while pushing the speculation over Modi preponing General Elections to back burner.

The results will make Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who reached out to Opposition leaders in a dinner meeting, more acceptable to other parties. Congress will be playing a more aggressive leadership role but Opposition leaders feel the party should not play the “big brother” based on one election and take along all others. The result may force parties like BSP to have a re-think on its strategy in Uttar Pradesh.

Opposition want to “build a narrative” on worsening agrarian crisis, rising job loss and businesses affected by GST and demonetisation among other “people’s issues” to counter BJP’s polarising subjects that appeal to the emotions. “Do not fall into Modi’s trap” is the common refrain among the leaders.

From CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury to Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien to D Raja of CPI, the thrust is on not changing the contest to a Modi versus Rahul fight.

I think the take away is that the Opposition has to get together with a policy alternative. It can’t be Modi vs Rahul. Indications (about a paradigm shift) are sufficient. But that will materialise only through a policy alternative,” Yechury told DH.

O’Brien also said that the making it a contest personality contest would be “playing into BJP hands”, only to help them making the contest around polarising issues. “There is hope for Opposition and policy-based initiative is what is needed,” Raja said.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav emphasised the need for opposition “joining hands” and take up issues of farmers and youth while rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav noted that “united efforts can give strong fight to opponents”.

RJD’s Manoj K Jha believes that the Gujarat results are a “rude shock” to Modi-Amit Shah combine who “dreams of Opposition-free India”. “The message is clear. Take politics to people. Engage with real issues. People are willing to jettison individual-centred authoritarianism,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald website on Dec 19, 2017


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