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Strategy Dilemma

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Opposition parties hoping to oust the BJP from its strongholds in the next round of assembly elections must work out exactly what their pitch it going to be. Will it be a round of competitive Hinduism? This seems to be the strategy thus far with leading lights like Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi seeking to establish their religious credentials not just through temple-hopping but also declarations on the nature of Hinduism. Mamata is particularly on a high after thwarting the BJP’s power bid in West Bengal and cannot be blamed for seeking to emulate AAP’s Kejriwal by venturing into other states. However, considering she did not win in her home state because she was considered more Hindu than her opponents, it is questionable why she is adopting that approach now. Does the Trinamool Congress not have a political ideology to present before the people?

These leaders obviously fear that the BJP’s presence in the field could polarise the electorate on religious lines; maybe because all these years they have been harvesting minority, particularly Muslim, votes by raising the Hindutva bogey. They are afraid that it might also work the other way if majority votes are not prevented from consolidating. In UP, this has been the SP’s approach through caste mobilisation.

It would work if the opposition is itself not divided. Unity can be achieved either through forging alliances, or by rendering the other parties into non-entities by emerging the primary contender. Akhilesh Yadav is hoping for this at the cost of the Congress and BSP in UP, having failed spectacularly in earlier half-hearted bids to launch an alternative religious narrative based on descent from Krishna. With no one taking that bait, he has now chosen to entirely swing the other way to ‘Jinnahism’.

Surely the electorate is deserving of a better alternative if it is willing to look for one? There are sections that are entirely opposed to the BJP under any circumstances, but what about the others who wish to make intelligent choices? Should the opposition play into the BJP’s hands by making it about Hinduism? Or do they know better – that the voter’s memory is short and the old stratagem of buying votes through election time freebies is the best strategy – just using new terminology for these bribes. The politicians won’t improve unless the voter learns to win some respect from them.