Bharat Bandh: Opposition launches campaign from Ram Lila Maidan

Bharat Bandh was not just a protest against rising fuel prices. It was the launch of the Opposition’s election campaign, a fitting reply to BJP’s boast that it would rule for the next 50 years

NH Photo
NH Photo

Zafar Agha

The opposition today redeemed itself by hitting the streets on the issue of price rise. And the Bharat Bandh ensured that the Government and the ruling party will no longer be able to duck the issue of daily increases in petroleum prices, which are at an all time high although the international price of crude is still much lower than during the UPA years.

There was a spring that one could sense in the opposition. Barring a few, 21 political parties came together in the national capital and, by all accounts, made their presence felt, possibly the first time they have successfully done so in the last four years. This reflected the mood on the ground with people now complaining freely of their disillusionment with the Modi Government. The Bharat Bandh clearly signalled the launch of the Opposition’s campaign for the 2019 general election and seek a change of guard at the Centre.

What happens when ballots are counted after the next round of parliamentary polls, time will tell. But there are clear signs that Narendra Modi has lost much of his popular appeal and the BJP betraying signs of nervousness and a lack of agenda for 2019. It was evident from The BJP national executive meeting held in New Delhi just a day before. Gone was all talk of development and achievement as the BJP laid out its plan to fall back on one man’s public speaking skill to win the election.

But 2019 is not going to be 2014. There was certainly a Modi wave in the last parliamentary election. Narendra Modi took India by a wave and led his party to clear majority in 2014.But he made a cardinal mistake by promising the Moon, by promising everything to everyone.

He was seen in a position then to deliver on everything that appeared to ail India and more. The dream that he sold had jobs in Crores every year, Rs 15 lakh for every Indian, doubling the income of farmers, funds business; everything under the sun virtually.

Four years down the line, the delivery is zero, rather, it is in negatives. There are virtually no jobs in the market. Farmers are committing suicide or taking to streets in protest. Businesses are reeling following demonetisation and distress over GST. Overall the economy is dwindling while petrol is selling over ₹80 per litre and Indian Rupee has breached the mark of 72 against one Dollar.

Narendra Modi of 2019 is a prime minister who is not just facing anti-incumbency but is now perceived as a false leader who has led the nation to the brink. His party is leading the country to a social and communal divide that India has not seen since its partition in 1947. Mob lynchings are the order of the day. Minorities are living in a state of fear. Dalits are feeling insecure. Youth is either running from pillar to post for a job or is scared of getting pink slip any time. Forget women, even minor girls are afraid to step out for fear of rape and abduction.

Modi’s India in 2018 is not the India of its founding fathers who laid the foundation of liberal and inclusive India where all Indian irrespective of ther cate, creed or religion could live with their head held high. But the BJP has a different idea of India which is neither liberal nor inclusive. Modi has turned into a leader whose ‘new India’ is painted only in saffron hue instead of all the three national colours. Can such a leader get peoples’ mandate once again? It seems highly unlikely at this point of time.

It’s in this backdrop the Congress led opposition call for the nation-wide strike has lit a new hope among the sections that are feeling down and out under Modi raj. The liberal middle class is ready to take on Modi. The civil society is already engaged in anti-Modi campaigns at various levels. Minorities are waiting to throw Modi out of power, Dalits are looking for a new social alliance to get rid of a government whose gift to them has been incidents like at Una. Farmers are already on the streets.

It is surely time for a united, anti-Modi front for 2019. The Congress call for Bharat bandh was a timely move in this scenario. The gathering of 21 opposition leaders at Delhi’s Ram Lila Maidan and huge protest against the Modi government in various parts of the country are sure signs of the bad news in store for the BJP next year.

Opposition unity is no longer in the realm of debates and discussion. It is already on the march on Indian streets. It is the unity of 69 percent voters that was divided in 2014 and its division led Modi to win with just 31 per cent vote. The BJP may call it an anti-Modi front. But it is not just an anti-Modi front. It is a broad social front that is now determined to stand up in defence of its constitution, its liberalism, its muti-faith and multi-cultural social fabric.

The Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s confidence at the Ram Lila Maidan may not be misplaced. India seems poised for change and a change of guard. Ram Lila Maidan has a history of launching many movements in this country that culminated in a change of guard at the Centre. The meeting on Monday once again seemed to portend the winds of change.

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Published: 10 Sep 2018, 8:07 PM