Nitish Kumar bolting to the NDA camp has decimated Bihar’s Grand Alliance, crushing the opposition’s hopes for a combined anti-Modi bloc in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Congress now finds itself looking at an opposition which is in total disarray.
With the opposition’s unity project for 2019 decimated, most pundits are saying BJP is going to win. After the BJP and Nitish rapprochement, 2019 already seems over.
What happens to India’s politics now?
In my opinion, Nitish Kumar does not enjoy any support outside Bihar, but that’s not important. I think the important thing is the possibility of a credible face -- a credible leader that the parliamentary opposition has lacked so far.
In the past few months, Nitish Kumar’s name was mentioned as someone who enjoys a relatively clean image, has some records of governance, and can bring lot of people together.
That’s what the opposition has lost, and that’s a much bigger setback than the 20 seats they may have lost. Having said that, I have learned not to be too sanguine, not to be too sure too much in advance. In 2004, in the run-up to the election till the day of counting, everyone was sure that Mr Bajpei was coming back. 2019 is still two years away; a lot could happen in two years.
From parliamentary opposition to opposition
We should not limit the word “opposition” to “parliamentary opposition.” We have seen the bankruptcy of parliamentary opposition in the last couple of years on policy, ideology, resolve, leadership … the list goes on.
Parliamentary opposition is in tatters. But when we think of opposition, we should be willing to look beyond the parliamentary opposition.
I look at what’s happening to farmers in India right now; that’s where the real opposition is building now.
That’s outside the parliamentary opposition, but we must not lose sight of that.
In 2019, it’s the popular mood that’s going to drive the election -- not formal politics or parties
A faceless opposition?
It would be great if the opposition did have a face and had a leader who could actually present an alternative narrative to the BJP’s to the people, so that people could have a choice.
In 1977, when India had a towering personality like Indira Gandhi, almost like Narendra Modi, she just dominated. And all the opposition leaders were in jail.
At the time election was announced, she released them on the eve of the election. They were scattered everywhere. That election was driven by popular anger against Indira Gandhi.
I don’t think anybody forecasted that Indira Gandhi would have lost her own seat. There was a reaction to emergency, there was a reaction to authoritarianism, there was a reaction to dictatorship.
I believe that in 2019, it’s the popular mood that’s going to drive the election -- not formal politics or parties. If the popular mood is in favour of Narendra Modi, he would bag more than 350 seats. But if the popular mood is negative, the people of India may see a surprising result.
What BJP means by wanting a “danger-free India” is actually an India with “no opposition zones.”
And it’s working really with the missionary zeal. The most important thing is, BJP is hungrier to have complete control than the opposition is. BJP leaders are saying that they have set themselves a target of 150 seats out of 183 seats in the Gujarat legislative assembly, with the elections coming up later this year.
It is this hunger which is new for India, and it is new for the opposition as well.
Reversely, the opposition leaders, or allies of Congress party are desperate about Rahul Gandhi, because what they sought developing in the so-called opposition unity was a UPA-3 sort of soft structure, where there was an entitlement of dynasty.
Sharif Hasan is currently working as a field researcher on behalf of Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS), University of Dhaka.