With the Narendra Modi and Amit Shah-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) storming back to power at the Centre with even more seats than in 2014, India’s varied Opposition parties, both national and regional, need to band together now than ever before.
From May 2014 to May 2019, the first five years of the Modi government have been characterised by massive bungling on the economic front, à la Demonetisation, a botched up GST, low agricultural sector growth and the highest unemployment levels in the last 45 years. The government has also subverted the integrity of nearly every institution that forms and protects the bedrock of Indian democracy.
From the Central Bureau of Investigation to the Enforcement Directorate, from the Central Vigilance Commission to the judiciary, from the Reserve Bank of India to the Election Commission of India, from the armed forces to the media, few have been spared.
The colourful socio-cultural fabric of a diverse India has been torn apart by lynching of Muslims and Dalits. An atmosphere has been continuously promoted where ‘secular’, ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ have increasingly become abuses and pejorative terms. If one recounts how many times BJP ministers and leaders have spoken about the need to change India’s Constitution in the first five years of Prime Minister Modi, one realises the grave threat that Indian democracy’s holy book will be confronted with in his second tenure.
This is not the time for Opposition parties to squabble but one of coming together to defend the idea of India that has been a key to the country’s rise ever since Independence. India’s people, belonging to diverse faiths, races, languages, regions and cultures, have till now put in their best for the nation to progress, knowing their position and stake in India’s development story remain guaranteed by our Constitution that says all citizens are equal and enjoy the same rights. That very assurance is under threat today more than ever before.
Only Opposition unity can assure the citizens of the same now. Do our Opposition parties wish to see our beloved country being torn apart by communal, linguistic and racial strife? The recent developments in Uttar Pradesh where the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party have decided to contest the Assembly bypolls separately is certainly not a step in this direction. Though both parties have said that this did not indicate an end of their alliance, very few will be convinced by these denials.
The Congress must also plug its own gaps, specially at the state-level, and engage every non-NDA party in India to build a common platform for secular and progressive forces. Opposition parties must also take the civil society on board this platform and go back to organising people’s movements on issues like farm crisis, workers’ woes and alleged EVM manipulation.
The verdict of 2019 should act as an eye-opener for all Opposition parties. Unless the Opposition unites, the fight against fascism backed by an enormous war chest, crony capitalists and possibly even foreign powers may become harder than ever.