Opposition must strengthen campaign
Gopal Gandhi can play a major role till 2019 lok sabha elections.
For the opposition parties of the country, including Congress, July 11 was a memorable day. Not only, did the eighteen opposition parties agree on a common candidate, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, as the Vice-Presidential candidate for elections on August 5. But in an unusual development, the entire opposition agreed at the same meeting to hold a countrywide campaign against the Centre's policies. The proposal was pushed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but taking into account the situation of both the polity and the economy of the country, now only a massive campaign on the people's demands by the united opposition in the next two years, can lead to the possibility of a new regime at the Centre after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
At long last, the Congress Party has shown some respect to the sensibility of the other opposition parties. As regards the Presidential nominee, Congress through dillydallying gave BJP the opportunity to play the dalit card first. The Party followed it later only but it could have avoided it if Congress would have agreed to Gopalkrishna Gandhi as the Presidential candidate right from the start. Now, regarding the Vice President nomination, the Grand Old Party has at least left the initiative to the Left and Trinamool, which comes as a good sign. Congress has to observe the cardinal rule that it is only the first party among the opposition bloc and it cannot dictate others. The Party has to take decisions in consultations with others and not make any bid to impose decisions.
A positive development of the VP candidate nomination for the opposition is that finally, they have chosen the best possible candidate in the country. Gopal Gandhi is the symbol of what represents the core values of this great nation India, which is Bharat. Gopal Gandhi is just not the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, he is the best fusion of tradition with modernity. He is the best person who can articulate with equal ease his strong views against fundamentalism along with the Prime Minister's latest stand with Israel while fully ignoring the existence of Palestine. Gopal Gandhi had the guts to write about the Israel visit of Narendra Modi: "I would not raise objections to Prime Minister Modi's visit per se. But what I find surprising, even shocking, is that the visit should have taken place as if the Arabs do not exist, the Palestine state is a myth and that the only reality of that Holy Land is Israel, Israel, and more Israel". At a time when the other retired IFS officers are keeping silent at the murder of India's long lasting foreign policy, Gopal Gandhi continued his act as the conscience of the nation to call a spade a spade.
Taking into account the strength in both the houses of the Parliament, the opposition candidate, Gandhi, may lose the elections on August 5 but that is not the issue. Gopalkrishna Gandhi should be with the opposition even after August 5 as the country needs him to act as the conscience of the nation, to act as the mentor of the opposition in this time of turmoil, Gandhi is not a political activist as such but he has a strong political sense which was visible when he was Governor of West Bengal. Gopal can be the second Gandhi of the present century in mentoring the all out struggle of the opposition.
At the moment the country is facing a crisis. There is no security for minorities, the informal economy is in tatters. The demonetisation and restrictions on cattle markets have hit the informal economy hard. The official agencies have not made proper studies. The ground reality is that the decline in sales and prices spreads from the informal sector to the formal sector. The government while talking of high-value FDI and concessions to foreign retailers is not focusing on dealing with the ills that have plagued the informal sector. As regards the job generation, the situation is static. Foreign investments are coming up in only high technology areas, creating limited jobs. Indian companies are not investing as they feel that foreigners are receiving more facilities. Make in India programmes have not yet achieved any ground-breaking success.
A recent CMIE report says that about 1.5 million jobs were lost during January-April 2017. The estimated total employment during the January-April period of 2017 was 405 million compared to 406.5 million during the preceding four months of September-December 2016. As per the report, the lasting effect of demonetisation is apparent in the fall in labour participation rate. The rate fell to 44.5 per cent in February 2017 and then to 44 per cent in March and 43.5 per cent in April 2017. This shows that new investments are falling and for a developing economy like India, the drop in labour participation means slow down.
As discussed by the opposition parties at the July 11 meeting, the joint campaign of the opposition should focus on farmer's distress, the ills of the informal economy, the retrenchments, layoffs and the acute unemployment situation, apart from the urgent political issues like fighting communalism at every level. All the peasant organisations, trade unions, civil society activists have to be associated with this massive campaign. The Left must play a very active role in this campaign. It has the opportunity to revive its organisation by taking a lead in this massive struggle. Maximum, effective, and planned use of the social media has to be made.
At the political level, the state Assembly elections are due this year in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat and in both these states, Congress is the main political party to fight BJP. Congress this time has to seek maximum cooperation from all anti-BJP forces to structure its fight. It will be a very tough battle but the Congress and its allies have to prepare themselves for this crucial electoral battle as the outcome will have its impact on the series of assembly elections in 2018, which will have a final impact on the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. For Congress and the opposition, there is no time to lose. IPA
(The author is Editor-in-Chief of IPA. The views are strictly personal.)