Total Unity: Opposition pre-requisite
The last four days of the current monsoon session of the Parliament has witnessed unity of the opposition parties in taking on the Government in the two houses on both issues: farmers distress throughout the country and cow vigilantism resulting in selective lynching. The situation in the country is boiling both, on the social and the economic fronts, but the opposition parties, especially the Congress have been failing to take political advantage of the severe discontentment arising amidst the masses.
On the other hand, the BJP leadership has been hyperactive in implementing its agenda one by one. The guaranteed control of the top four posts in the Government is being completed. With Ram Nath Kovind succeeding Pranab Mukherjee as the next President of India, the Rashtrapati Bhavan will be having a new resident emerging from the ranks of the Lotus party. Kovind claims now that he will abide by the norms of the Indian Constitution but there is some doubt on whether he will be the rubber stamp of the government. BJP leader and a seasoned worker-Venkaiah Naidu is set to take over as the Vice-President of India on August 5. Already Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan are veteran workers of the Lotus brigade.
The installation of Ram Nath Kovind as the President of India signals a process of political transformation in India which is fundamentally different from the Presidential change that took place earlier. During BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee's time, Dr Abdul Kalam was selected as the Presidential nominee by him and that was a normal process, nobody thought of any substantial shift in the working of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. But in 2017, the situation is completely different. BJP, on its own, has a majority in the Lok Sabha and taking into account the weakness and leadership failure of the Congress and some of the regional parties, the BJP is winning state after state in the Assembly polls and their juggernaut is proceeding with speed to capture the other states in the coming Assembly polls - with the ultimate objective of winning the Lok Sabha for the second consecutive time in the 2019 polls.
What is the main opposition party – Congress - doing to counter BJP's mission? It is really sad that when there are so many issues hurting the people, the opposition parties are not in the fields to lead the disgruntled masses. The farmers' distress covers almost all states. The farmers on their own are in the battle against the policies of the Centre and the respective state governments. In Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, the movement is spreading. These are the states which are now strongholds of BJP and in two of these states, the Assembly elections are due in the coming months. Congress has to organise massive mobilisation in these states to take on BJP. In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress has participated to some extent but that is not adequate, there is a need for total mobilisation of cadres in favour of the demands of the farmers. The supporting base of BJP has also to be approached to delink them from the ruling camp. It is not a two week or one month job. This has to be continued throughout the year.
In Gujarat, apart from farmers, the traders in traditional trades like textiles and gold jewellery, are up in arms against the Government. Congress and the other opposition parties have to listen to them and navigate them towards an anti-BJP camp. Gujarat is not as solid for BJP as it was before. The factional fights in BJP are continuing and this is the time Congress meet this challenge unitedly by taking part in all the movements that are currently occurring in the state to protect the interests and livelihood of the people. Assembly elections in Gujarat are due by the end of this year and it is now time for Congress to put its own house in order and jump into the anti-BJP movement in the next three or four months, in cooperation with other anti-BJP forces.
The monsoon session is continuing until August 11, as per the present schedule. While the opposition led by the Congress has to focus the campaign issues jointly in both houses, there is an urgent need that the mass organisations of the opposition parties start their agitations in different states as also in the national capital to coincide with the battle by the opposition leaders in the Parliament. The July 11 meeting of the opposition leaders decided on a campaign programme but till now no directive has been issued by the opposition leadership to their state units for undertaking such massive campaigns. Presently, the opposition has capable leaders like Derek O'Brien, Sitaram Yechury and D Raja who can help in fine tuning the campaign programme to suit the demands of the time. The moot point is that the battle of the opposition has to be fought both inside and outside Parliament and all the mass organisations of the opposition parties have to involve themselves.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi has to lead this opposition from the front. Sonia is respected by the opposition leaders and her seniority and maturity should be of help to the opposition in sorting out differences as and when they crop up. Right now, she has to intervene to see that the grand alliance continues in Bihar and there is no break between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav. If Nitish is sincere in fighting BJP, he should find out a way to deal with the Tejaswi issue without creating any hurdles for anti-BJP front. Nitish has to be a part of that front nationally, along with Mayawati and Akhilesh. Just as Mamata and CPI(M) can fight in West Bengal, but, at a national level for fighting BJP, they have to work together. Sonia has to act as the unifier of the opposition forces who are determined to take on BJP in 2019 polls. IPA
(The author is Editor-in-Chief of IPA. The views are strictly personal.)