Although opposition parties are somewhat upbeat because of the possible adverse impact the farmers’ protest may be making on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the prospect of BJP governments getting re-elected is also very real. Considering the tattered state of the opposition at the present based entirely on its performance, there is natural concern among political analysts about the health of Indian democracy, should the present situation continue. Already, in the effort to seem relevant, many of these parties are adopting extreme postures and pandering to fringe elements – even to the extent of anti-national positioning. Such a trend would not be healthy at all and could lead to even more security issues.
There is, however, another option – a mature opposition that actually functions on the basis of principled support to the government in power. These should have autonomous power bases of their own but be led by politicians who can distinguish between politics and national interest. A good example has been Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik, whose party – the Biju Janata Dal – has been able to make this important distinction. As such, while it has remained largely independent of BJP influence and retained its hold over Odisha, it has also served as an ally of the Centre when needed. In contrast, the unprincipled and entirely negative approach of the Trinamool Congress and Maharashtra’s MVA has allowed anti-national elements to find space and sanctuary.
It is in this context that former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s decision to launch his own party opens a new chapter. His nationalist credentials are impeccable. It was mostly his personal popularity in Punjab that had brought the Congress to power in the state. Despite the fact that his willingness to tie-up with the BJP if certain conditions are met may seem to be a compromise to ‘secular’ parties, it is a well-considered move. The BJP has a committed vote base in urban areas of the state, which would become a significant factor in a divided polity if made available to Amarinder. The Shiromani Akali Dal has profited from this in the past. Whatever the election results, it would serve as a statement of political unity against divisive forces. It would become a platform for the patriotic forces, free of communal and caste considerations, imparting greater maturity to Indian democracy.