As the opposition continues to strike out in its attempt to ‘contain’ the rising hegemony of the BJP, the danger is that it may even lose its ability to represent people’s genuine grievances. It is not always that governments and administrations become aware of the difficulties being faced by the general public, and it is the job of opposition politicians to raise them on appropriate forums – that is what democracy is all about. If, however, this responsibility is not carried out or is done inappropriately, people will lose faith and look for alternatives. They then seek the assistance of those who exercise different kinds of power – criminal or militant. This poses a different kind of challenge to democracies and India has faced more than its share of militancy and terrorism.
Outreach by successive governments and some excellent work by security forces have helped contain such forces, but the threat potentially always remains. The recent rise in violence by religious fundamentalists and increase in popularity of an organisation like the PFI indicates that those disillusioned by the functioning of democratic institutions are looking for other options. The blame for this goes mostly to the opposition parties, which are failing to represent the people’s grievances and concentrating, instead, on the kind of pettifogging that is making the news these days.
There is Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin’s famous quote, “There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.” It signifies a lot. There have been a lot of spontaneous movements of late such as those against farm laws, the CAA, etc. These have adhered, by and large, to the conventions of a mature democracy, but it was seen that the mainstream political parties could not provide meaningful direction or even take electoral advantage. This indicates the extent of voters’ disillusionment. The last time that a popular upsurge incarnated into a political movement was the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party from the Anna Hazare protest. However, AAP has taken the easier populist approach rather than address the deeper issues, which is likely to prove its undoing. The opposition must focus on playing its role and connect at the grassroots, rather than try and impress on social media and the talk shows. That would benefit it, as well as the nation.