on thin ice

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Dec 2018 12:16:26

THE only common programme the Opposition parties have for their proposed Mahagathbandhan -- Grand Alliance -- before the next general elections a few months from now is to defeat the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. There is nothing philosophically wrong in harbouring such a goal by Opposition parties. But the problem sure to come up during the proposed meeting to plan the Mahagathbandhan on December 10 will be that the alliance will stand on too thin an ice, thanks to the atmosphere of mutual distrust that prevails among leaders of most Opposition parties. One of the reasons for this distrust is the personal ambition most of them harbour about being the leader of the Mahagathbandhan. With so many heavyweights staking their claims to the top position, the ice under them will crack, no matter how much care Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Chandrababu Naidu, the convener of the proposed meet, takes to ensure smooth deliberations. 

This is not a new apprehension. Many political observers have expressed it time and again. Yet, the Mahagathbandhan must take place if there is going to be a credible opposition to the Narendra Modi-led NDA in the next general elections. True, the outcome of the legislative elections in five States will circumscribe the political scenario, and the December 10 meet will be heavily influenced by it.

No matter the electoral outcome, the Mahagathbandhan is not going to find things easy as the Bharatiya Janata Party, leading the NDA, is priming itself hard in a professional manner. Political observers know well that the NDA has finalised its approach to the challenge of the general elections and almost ready to secondary and tertiary details, down to issues of booth management on the polling day. This massive exercise has been going on for some time now and the BJP and its allies in the NDA appear almost ready to take on any challenge the proposed Mahagathbandhan may offer.

In comparison, the Opposition parties are far from ready with their details, so much so that they do not know how to sort out the details of seat-sharing, a critical component in the general elections. That is the reason why leaders like Mr. Sharad Pawar are suggesting that the details can be dealt with after the elections are over. There may not be many takers for such a suggestion. Yet, the thought is quite likely to impact some of the discussions on December 10 and afterwards. For any Mahagathbandhan, this does not appear as a healthy sign. There will be many more hurdles the collective Opposition leadership will have to sort out.

The biggest hurdle, however, will be in the form of the absence of any philosophical base for the Mahagathbandhan to manage its strategy and tactics for the elections. The attempt of parties like Congress to tell the people that Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and BJP are destroying the Constitution and are “selling” the country has not gone well with the voters since such charges are nothing but brazen nonsense. Calling the BJP a communal force also is not appreciated by people since Opposition parties, too, have a terrible record on that count. Also, the whatever-the-Government-does-is-wrong policy of the Opposition parties has met with popular rejection in most elections since 2014. With such a flimsy philosophical base, combating the Modi wave will be a difficult ball-game for the Mahagathbandhan.

If the Opposition can rise above all this pettiness and put together a Grand Alliance in a sensible manner, domestic politics will have a better quality of public discourse. If this does not become possible, then the Opposition parties will be chasing a mirage with only a hazy outline.