Millennium Post

Credible opposition?

The remarkable success of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections has unintended consequences. One such consequence was the creation of the Janata Parivar, an amalgamation of six parties with varying footprints across the country. After weeks of negotiations, all six political entities formally announced the creation of this coalition, which seeks to take on the BJP in the upcoming Bihar and Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. The six political parties are: the Uttar Pradesh-based Samajwadi Party, the Bihar-focused Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Samajwadi Party, Karnataka’s Janata Dal (Secular) and the Haryana-based Indian National Lok Dal. These parties were all decimated by the BJP in the general elections. At the heart of this coalition lies a struggle for political relevance in the wake of a Modi-led juggernaut.

Nonetheless, it must be also stated all six parties possess a shared political history. All the parties are offshoots of the Janata Dal, itself a jamboree of political entities formed in 1988 that came together to defeat the Rajiv Gandhi government under Vishwanath Pratap Singh. The National Front government led by VP Singh was instrumental in creating an environment that had immense political ramifications for its constituents.  The VP Singh-led government acted upon the Mandal Commission report, which avowed the affirmative action practice under Indian law, whereby members of Other Backward Classes (OBC), in addition to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST)) were given exclusive access to a certain portions of government jobs and slots in public universities.

Caste-based politics, although prevalent before the Mandal Commission report, took a significant turn after its findings were published. It created an environment, from where many lower caste groups derived their sense of political empowerment. Infighting and schisms of all shapes and sizes, however, broke the VP Singh-led government. Its constituents, though, especially the likes of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD patriarch Lalu Prasad Yadav, soon consolidated their positions to create a political legacy for themselves in their respective states.

Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, they came together on the foundational ideology of anti-Congressism, although its constituents also espoused a governance model based on an interpretation of welfare-socialism of erstwhile political ideologue Ram Manohar Lohia, albeit a warped model. Now its existence arises from a sense of anti-BJPism, with shades of an alleged ‘secular’ ideal, pitted against the BJP’s ‘majoritarian Hindu’ ideology.  With a history of past animosity, some suspect that such a coalition cannot exist without spurring ego clashes among its constituents.

Through the recent Parliament session, the BJP-led Centre found it hard to pass key legislation like the land acquisition bill in the Rajya Sabha; all six parties with its 30 members, allied with the Congress and Trinamool Congress, blocked its passage. Members of this coalition, therefore, will not only look to reclaim lost ground in their respective states, but also to establish a national presence.

With 15 members in the Lok Sabha, leaders from the six parties cannot do much to tackle the BJP. In
the Rajya Sabha, however, there exists a distinct possibility. Both the UP and Bihar assemblies send 47 members to the Rajya Sabha. Recent assembly by-polls in Bihar last year also saw members of the Janata Parivar, allied with the Congress, secure six seats out of ten, giving a jolt to a complacent BJP. With a lack of any credible opposition for the BJP in Indian politics, such a merger is most welcome. However, past schisms and ego clashes should be a thing of the past for the coalition to work.

Next Story
Share it