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Distant Hope

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In an interaction with a TV news channel, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has declared that the opposition would ‘bulldoze’ the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha contest. An excellent statement of intent but, thus far, it is the BJP that seems to be doing the bulldozing, both, literally and figuratively. Maharashtra is the latest example where the opposition has lost political space. This is despite the fact that parties with disparate ideologies had managed to form a coalition government.

Next in line seem to be Telangana and Rajasthan. Even Tamil Nadu seems to be feeling the heat to the extent that former Union Minister A Raja has even threatened to re-ignite the secessionist movement. In his speech in Hyderabad on Sunday to BJP cadres, PM Modi specially targeted dynastic politics because that is the nature of most opposition parties, be it at the regional or national level.

The opposition is aware of these major shortcomings – not in their own parties but in the others. So, the leaders are unwilling to forge a joint front based on issues more substantial than the usual litany of complaints against the Centre. The only thing they are all agreed on is their hatred for Modi. Whether this can evolve into an effective counter to the BJP in 2024 is the big question.

What brought down the Congress from its Olympian heights was the breaking away of its vote bank at the hands of what are described as ‘vote-katua’ parties. This provided the main challenger in the various states to get a larger number of votes. The attempt will be made to do the same to the BJP, which is why the party is so eager to consolidate the Hindutva sentiment. There have been attempts to build up ‘subaltern’ movements to break this unity but it has not worked. Also, the very obvious kow-towing to the Muslim voters has ensured polarisation in favour of the BJP.

It is important for the opposition to realise that only genuine development and administration at the grassroots can counter the BJP juggernaut. Odisha is a good example of this, where the BJD deals with political maturity, not feeling in any way diminished by extending issue-based support to the Centre when required. If this is not done, it is only a matter of time before the voters get disillusioned no matter how much rhetoric is directed at Modi’s ‘autocracy’.