United opposition against BJP in 2019
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s call for opposition unity should be taken seriously.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has once again strongly come out in favour of a grand alliance of opposition parties to stop the surge of BJP evident in the saffron party's sweeping victory in the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Nitish has underlined the need for a mahagathbandhan on Bihar pattern to meet the challenge of the Hindutva forces in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Nitish's call found endorsement from RJD president Lalu Yadav who has been consistent in his opposition to BJP all through. Nitish has appealed to the Congress and the Left to take the initiative for forming this alliance.
The Modi government, in which BJP has a majority of its own with 282 seats, is going ahead with its programme of achieving a Hindu Rashtra and to do that, Narendra Modi has sugarcoated his objective with some populist measures. He is skillfully implementing a programme based on the fusion of Hindutva with neo-liberalism. BJP and Sangh Parivar have the support of crony capitalists and they have been successfully implementing their social engineering formula, as is evident in UP elections. BJP cannot be fought now by a divided opposition, many of whom lack credibility. BJP has to be fought on the basis of a robust alternative programme that challenges both Hindutva and economic policies.
The formation of opposition unity and programme is a tough task, but this is a critical period in Indian history. There is scope for organising this alliance on the basis of a common minimum programme and all the parties which are now positioned against BJP, including Trinamool Congress and Aam Admi Party (AAP), will have to be brought within this umbrella alliance.
As the Bihar Chief Minister has explained, the BJP's victory in UP was mainly because of lack of a Bihar-like alliance. The votes polled by the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance and BSP together are ten per cent more than the BJP. Now, the SP leader Akhilesh Yadav is also saying that he might consider having an alliance with BSP before the Lok Sabha elections. For both SP and the BSP, this is a fight for survival, and they can jointly recover their position if they fight BJP unitedly as a part of the grand alliance in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In fact, much depends on the Congress Party's muscle power and performance. In the next phase of elections to the state Assemblies in Himachal and Gujarat by the end of 2017, the Congress is the main party facing the BJP. Preparations for the alliance should start right now so that before the next round of Assembly elections, the non-BJP parties mobilise their forces jointly and face the BJP in the Assembly elections. Right now, the BJP with its success in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand has been able to generate a momentum which will help it in the next round of Assembly elections unless the anti-BJP parties mobilise themselves unitedly.
The formation of an opposition alliance will have a positive impact on the fence sitters and those who think that BJP has become invincible. Congress is the major opposition party against BJP in most of the states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh and the party should have an understanding with the BSP, SP, and Left in places where these parties have some base. The emergence of an anti-BJP alliance will also impart dynamism and enthusiasm in the Congress campaign against the BJP.
Nitish Kumar has correctly mentioned of the Congress-Left initiative. The Left is now ruling only two states Kerala and Tripura, but due to loss of West Bengal, the Lok Sabha strength has dipped to 10 as against 24 after 2009 Lok Sabha elections and as high as 61 after 2004 elections. This depleting strength has certainly affected adversely the manoeuvrability of Left which was there earlier vis a vis the opposition parties. But the Left has to play a very effective role in this critical moment, and the CPI(M) has to do away with its present line of equidistance from the Congress and the BJP as per its last party congress resolution.
The political situation has changed very fast since the last CPI(M) party congress in 2015.Fascism, in its classical form, has not arrived in India but it comes in stages, and the communists have to fight the first signs aggressively in alliance with other democratic forces. There can be no anti-BJP front without the active participation of the Congress. The CPI in its recent resolution said that the left alone cannot fight this battle and there is a need for broad unity of secular and democratic forces that include the Congress. The CPI(M) central committee at its upcoming meeting this month, must take the lead in working for a broad alliance on the lines of the Bihar Chief Minister.
Mamata and Kejriwal have to be the active partners of this broad coalition which will fight BJP at the Centre. The opposition parties might challenge each other in the state Assemblies and prove their respective strengths, but for defeating the BJP in Lok Sabha polls in 2019, they have to adjust taking into account their respective power. The CPI(M) extended support to the Congress-led government after 2004 Lok Sabha elections though both the parties fought bitterly in the Lok Sabha elections. Similarly, the Left can go on fighting Mamata in Bengal, but there should be no objection from the Left if she wants to be a part of an anti-BJP alliance. In fact, Nitish and Lalu can tackle this delicate aspect.
Time is running out in India for the democratic and secular forces. As a part of the long-term Hindu Rashtra strategy, Sangh Parivar is steadily controlling all the key institutions of the government. The education sector has already been saffronised. With Adityanath as the UP Chief Minister, this saffronisation process is speeding up. This is the time to resist, and that can be done by the united efforts of the Congress, Left and the regional parties. Without going into the semantics of what stage the Hindutva movement has reached, the Left and the secular forces have to take the lead along with Congress, Nitish and Lalu in convening a meeting for the secular and non-BJP parties to work out the action programme. Only two years are left for the 2019 battle. BJP can be defeated in that battle provided the opposition parties are determined and ready to accommodate.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)