Modi has consolidated his position
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to remain several steps ahead of the opposition, thereby snuffing out any threat to his leadership. This has been the case since he became the Head of Government on May 26, 2014. Since then Modi has continued from strength to strength with hardly any opposition leader posing a threat to him.
He has further consolidated his position over the last three years. There is no opposition leader even close to emerging a competitor to Modi on the national scene, as none of those in their ranks is popular among large sections of society.
Given his high popularity ratings, even after completing 36 months, when the honeymoon period for the incumbent Prime Minister starts to wane, the chances of Modi enjoying a second consecutive five-year term as Prime Minister appears inevitable. It is not difficult to fathom the reasons as the opposition remains fragmented since Modi stormed to power at the Centre. He secured a majority on his own for the Lotus party in the Lok Sabha for the first time since its formation in 1980. The opposition is in dire need of evolving its socio-economic programmes different from that of the ruling BJP led NDA.
The BJP's success lies to a great measure restructuring and effecting subtle changes in the major socio-economic programmes of the UPA with the Congress in the vanguard, which has caught the imagination of the people. Stopping the Lotus party from repeating its 2014 performance in the next general elections barely two years later is possible, only if, the opposition remains united ensuring an effective challenge to the BJP. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has tried bringing the opposition together late last month for putting up a common candidate in next month's Presidential election. Master strategist Modi has once again stolen the march by announcing his Presidential nominee in Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit who has since resigned as the Governor of Bihar. Groomed by the RSS, the low profile Kovind is a self-made man, well versed in politics and constitutional procedures. A lawyer, who practised in the High Court, and the Supreme Court, he has been a member of the Rajya Sabha for two terms.
The first Dalit to occupy the highest Constitutional office in the country was KR Narayanan, a nominee of the Congress party. There are differences of opinion on this count as Narayanan was a Christian. Nevertheless, one does largely believe that Kovind is the real Dalit, having faced the trials and tribulations of this oppressed community in every sense of the word. This is intended to send a strong political signal to the Dalits that the BJP is with them and not their enemy along with allaying apprehensions about caste disturbances being whipped up deliberately against them in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and some other BJP ruled states.
Be that as it may, many non-BJP opposition leaders met in Chennai recently and spelt out their political differences with the Centre. The important aspect is that these busybodies have at least begun to sit together and discuss matters. Another significant step is expected to be taken in Patna in August where Lalu Prasad Yadav proposes to invite a large number opposition leaders for a mass rally. BJP's stunning victory in the recent assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh has created the necessary climate for bringing non-BJP parties together, like the Left, the RLD, JD (U), NC, NCP and Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, in a bid to form a coalition in the run up to the 2019 general elections.
This group has to identify and agree on minimum issues on which they can work together to counter Narendra Modi's policies effectively. In any personality based contest, Modi will be a runaway winner. Therefore, care has to be taken to focus on "issue based politics" in a bid to corner Modi and bring to the fore his blunders connected with national security as well as saddling the common man with disasters on social and economic fronts. So far the Modi government has faced unprecedented Dalit turmoil, with countrywide protests sparked by the suicide on the Hyderabad University campus by Rohith Vemula, the agitation in the wake of the atrocities perpetrated by the so-called 'gau rakshaks' and the recent Dalit-Thakur violence in Saharanpur, UP. With Modi having essayed his gambit, its impact on the Dalits will be known in the medium to long term.