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Opposition’s Challenge

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There is a rush now to analyse the results of the seven assembly bypolls that took place in important states of the country. The BJP won four of these in its strongholds and emerged the primary challenger in the others, except the one it did not contest. It is the regional parties that held their own against it, while the Congress drew a blank. The analysis is primarily being done, of course, in the context of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The big crib extraordinarily is that, where the non-BJP parties lost, votes were taken away by parties other than the primary challenger. It is almost as if they feel that no party has the right to chart its own course and must conform to a central strategy of defeating the BJP. So, the AIMIM or the BSP has no ‘right’ to put up candidates in Bihar as it would take votes away from the RJD-JD(U) combine. This is in itself an attempt to build local monopolies when the declared effort is to prevent a BJP stranglehold over national politics. While a party like AIMIM, at best, takes away Muslim votes, the primary ‘vote katua’ is proving to be the Aam Aadmi Party, but its persistence is justified by the fact that it has not only held on to Delhi, but also taken over Punjab, albeit against a declining Congress and a depleted SAD. This has encouraged Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao to contemplate transforming his regional party, TRS, into a national ‘BRS’. Attack, after all, is the best form of defence. Politics, in a democracy, is not just about acquiring power, it is also about providing an ideological alternative. It has been seen that many parties have compromised on their ideologies by adopting practices similar to those of parties already in power. This deprives the public of choices when they desire a change. A number of parties that are today little more than family proprietorships were ideology based when they started off and caught the attention of the people. So, in the battle against the BJP’s present dominance, the opposition should not think just in terms of total votes polled and believe that the majority are against the incumbent. While the first preference for a voter in UP might be a particular party, say the BSP, it does not follow that the second preference would be another opposition party like the SP – it is more likely to be the BJP. So, while coalitions can be formed after the elections, consolidating ‘opposition’ votes before is a very challenging task. Every party must fight on its own platform and provide a viable alternative to the ruling party.