Opp Readies for Democracy DNA Test in 2024

4 Min
Opp Readies for Democracy DNA Test in 2024


Anticipating the outcome of the next general elections has become engrossing after a conclave of 17 parties in Patna ended with the assembled parties signaling a desire to join hands for the big fight. The reported readiness of the Congress, the biggest Opposition party, and other parties to make some ‘sacrifices’ (in seat sharing) for the sake of Opposition unity, if implemented, will make the 2024 contest very interesting, indeed.   

The Patna meeting on June 23, convened by the JD(U) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will be followed by another meeting in Shimla around July 12 to move further in the direction of a ‘united’ Opposition—hitherto dismissed as a mirage. Chances of a ‘one-to-one’ contest in most of the 540-odd Lok Sabha constituencies between the BJP and the Opposition are looking good. The ruling BJP will, as always, have Modi as its mascot but his direct challenger remains unknown—a factor that the ruling party thinks goes in its favour.

The claim of ‘Opposition unity’ has been questioned because at Patna, the AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal, ‘boycotted’ the press conference addressed by all the other invited parties. The whimsical nature of Kejriwal makes it difficult to see whether eventually he would join other major Opposition parties before the 2024 polls. But if he takes a cold look at some of the realities he is facing, he might end up being part of a ‘united’ Opposition. As a first step, he might examine the circumstances surrounding him.

The BJP seems determined to uproot him from Delhi. Many of his powers, like appointment and transfer of officers, have been usurped by the BJP-ruled centre. The government is determined to bring in legislation to prune some of the powers of the chief minister of Delhi, who is no more than a glorified Gram Pradhan. Kejriwal wants the Congress to spell out its stand on this issue; otherwise, he will withdraw himself from the Opposition unity efforts.  

The almost daily war of words between him and the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi is apparently the result of efforts to dislodge him or curtail his powers. Some of his lieutenants are in jail. Kejriwal can see the danger to his rule quite clearly. 

He has started narrating fictional stories about an ‘unlettered’ ruler who ruled by his whims with disastrous results. It is hardly hidden that the target in the story is Modi. But no matter how interesting he makes his story, it is far from certain that it will help him achieve his aim of weakening the BJP challenge and retain his position.

After spectacular showings in Delhi and then Punjab, Kejriwal has assumed that there is no stopping his rise at the national level –in record time. He is said to be ready to contest all assembly and the Lok Sabha polls without aligning his party with any other party. He may well be in for a shock if he believes that he will reach the pinnacle of political power in the country in record time and that too without any political partner.

This is a reality that he cannot escape. And that is why it is quite likely that sooner or later, Kejriwal will join the Opposition bandwagon. Another Opposition figure of note is Mayawati, whose real political inclination is rather difficult to fathom. The fear of the ‘agencies’ keeps her silent, but when the elections draw near the BSP supremo may well spring a surprise by extending a hand of friendship to the Opposition.        

It appears certain that the 2024 electoral battle will not have a declared single commander of the Opposition—usually regarded as a puzzling situation. But there have been ample instances in India when a party won an electoral battle without declaring in advance the identity of its commander. The reasons in each of the ‘leaderless’ battles were different but on hindsight they appeared tactical.

The commander named after the polls was often a total surprise but the tactic could not be faulted. The most famous example of the surprise selection of the leader after the polls comes from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls which first surprised everyone by making the Congress the largest party and then the selection of Manmohan Singh, a dark horse, as prime minister. The BJP has also experimented successfully in state elections by fighting polls without naming the captain in advance.

The question of the prime Opposition leadership does not look crucial at the moment because the more important issue is whether or not the Indian voter has made up his mind to enforce a change of regime. If the answer is in the affirmative, then it will not matter whether or not the leader’s name has been disclosed in advance.

Some of the indicators that forecast the direction of the electoral wind have been suggesting a mood for change. In the last few months, many state assembly polls, bye-elections and even local body outcomes have gone against the BJP.

Some media reports say that an internal survey by the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP, has noted a decline in the popularity of Narendra Modi, BJP’s biggest mascot.

Reports have also emerged to indicate that more and more people are feeling that the ruling dispensation has failed to address many burning problems; in fact, the ordinary people are asking why the prime minister remains ‘maun’ (silent) on crucial issues, including sexual harassment of women wrestlers and a virtual civil war in Manipur. He probably wants the DNA to speak! (SAT)

*The writers are senior journalists