Mainstream, VOL LV No 17 New Delhi April 15, 2017
For a Durable and Strong Opposition
Wednesday 19 April 2017
With the BJP gaining strength by hook or by crook almost all over India and forming more and more State governments, the question of mobilising a strong and durable democratic Opposition is becoming more and more important. Some Opposition leaders are thinking in terms of a very broad mobilisation of various Opposition parties and groups. This is sometimes referred to as a mahagathbandhan.
The mobilisation of such a mahagathbandhan had proved effective in defeating the BJP in the last Assembly election in Bihar. While this was certainly an important victory for the Opposition, its importance should not be exaggerated. In fact cracks have already begun to appear in this broad alliance. Several observers have raised questions about how long the alliance of Nitish Kumar and Laloo Yadav in particular can continue.
The Bihar alliance became possible as the Congress agreed to a role of relative insignificance. If a grand alliance of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress is similarly attempted in Uttar Pradesh, then given the tendency of the first two political parties to dominate, the Congress will have to again agree to a very insignificant role in terms of electoral seats. But if the Indian National Congress, which is the most important party at the national level, goes on sacrificing its real and potential role and strength in the most important electoral States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, this in itself will weaken the Opposition at the national level as then only the BJP will remain as a genuine national party with a base in all parts of the country.
Therefore the way forward is to first agree on a common programme based on the principles of equality at all levels and secularism. These are the two most noble principles firmly enshrined in our Constitution but the BJP and its wider Sangh Parivar have basic weak-nesses from the perspective of these two main principles.
Hence to build a strong Opposition to the BJP, an alternative programme based firmly on equality at all levels and genuine secularism needs to be prepared carefully for consideration by various Opposition parties. If some of them express strong support for this, then this can become the basis of Opposition unity. Such a programme can also become the basis for the formation of a new political party.
Opposition unity based on an agreement on clear principles will go far and will also strengthen India’s democracy in various ways.