Ongoing battle for the Rashtrapathi Bhavan has left no one in doubt about the so called opposition unity and has shown how vulnerable non-BJP parties are. Moment the BJP top leadership announced the candidature of a Dalit leader Ramnath Kovind, chinks in the armour of the much claimed and oft trumpeted unity among the 18 political parties first to wreck it from within as he extended the support of the Janata Dal (U) to Kovind with a poor logic that as Bihar Governor Kovind had performed well.
Even though the meeting of the 18 opposition parties was scheduled to be held on June 22, Nitish appeared to be in a hurry to show to the world that he was breaking away from the common platform that was floated few months back to contest the presidential battle and then jointly move to fight the RSS-backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP at the assembly and national elections in 2019.
Next to show weakness was the BSP supremo Mayawati. By declaring her support to a Dalit candidate, she restricted the options and forced the rest of the opposition parties including the Congress to pick another Dalit candidate to be fielded bringing down the contest for the head of the state to shameful depths.
And so emerged a contest between five times Lok Sabah MP and the first woman Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and the NDA’s official candidate whose outcome is sure defeat of the opposition. Only a miracle can turn a sure defeat into a victory. Kovind is all set to be the next president of the country.
Tale of the opposition unity does not end here. Media reports tell that master political strategist Sharad Pawar too was wavering on his support for Kumat and wanted the meeting to be postponed. In short, there are many doubting Thomses within the opposition ranks as each one of them is primarily focused upon individual rather one’s own party’s interests.
What is so surprising is the lack of a long-term vision among the opposition parties as each one of them appears to be confident of surviving the growing might of the RSS-backed BJP and its onslaught on the idea of India as envisioned by freedom fighters and as enshrined in the Constitution.
Nursing illusions that the non-BJP parties can individually take on the ruling party at the centre and holding power in 22 states of Union of India, regional parties continue to remain divided thus giving a tremendous political advantage to their common rival. Ignoring the age old maxim that served millions over centuries who followed it that divided they fall and united they stand, the majority of the opposition parties are possibly not even aware of what is at stake.
The country is facing its gravest challenge in its 70th year of its free existence. Fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are under threat as they are being challenged almost on a daily basis. Minorities particularly the Muslims are living in fear as incidents of mob lynching hit media headlines almost on a daily basis. Cause or immediate reason may be beef but suspicion that Muslims are the killers of revered cows is at the root of the growing intolerance. These suspicions have been nurtured and nursed over the years while the RSS and the BJP continued to propagate that the ruling parties particularly the Congress was appeasing the Muslims.
Word secular became a hate object and word secular was turned into “sickular”. The media was targeted and derided as “pressititutes” thus challenging fundamental values of the Indian society that had governed and directed the national life for almost 67 years.
Incidentally, this week on June 25, 1974, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had imposed emergency on the country using constitutional provisions but today there is an undeclared emergency. Media is under threat as the ruling BJP government is running a trial in the media itself by using central investigating agencies like the CBI, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax department to harass and malign those media institutions which are not ready to toe the official dictated line. (Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation) [IFS]