OPPOSITION UNITY: EMERGING REALITY OR ILLUSION

Dr Satish Misra

Majority of the opposition parties have a common goal of defeating the BJP-led NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that eroded democracy, undermined institutions and ruined economy resulting in massive unemployment in the country.

Despite a common goal,opposition unity is still a chimera in popular perception. Much work still needs to be done to present a united image that can ignite public imagination and result in popular votes to oust the BJP from power.

While much ground is yet to be covered by opposition leaders but few developments in last fortnight, offer a hope that unity for purpose is evolving among 21 odd parties. It is important to rebut Modi’s charge that the opposition alliance would not be stable.

The BJP has been raking fears of instability in the country if parties that have no operational or ideological cohesion come to power.

It is more than obvious that prominent leaders like NCP chief Sharad Pawar, TDP president and Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, former JD (U) chief Sharad Yadav and RJD leader Laloo Yadav despite being in jail are playing important role sheet anchors of the emerging national level alliance.

Decision to draw a common minimum programme (CMP) is first concrete step in the right direction. Responsibility of preparing the CMP draft to
Congress president Rahul Gandhi is a tacit recognition of the role of the Congress in the emerging opposition unity.

Another positive of the process of unity among leaders of the emerging alliance that despite being political rivals on their respective political turf they are desirous of uniting at the national level.

Yet the path to a credible alliance is full of roadblocks and difficulties. Individual egos, personal ambitions, over-estimation of one’s political strength, poor assessment of one’s outreach, lack of clarity about the role and lastly ideological confusion.

While coordination among host of opposition parties over seat sharing and electoral adjustments is a key to defeating of the opponent in elections but a constructive and innovative CMP is far more crucial to the common goal because an alternative vision would really help in swinging votes away from the BJP-led NDA.

The CMP should target at removing archaic and inhuman laws from the statute books for example scrapping of the colonial-era sedition law-Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Cold.Doing away of defamation law by replacing it as civil offence instead of being a criminal offence as it is at present would send a message that proposed alliance means real business.

Much delayed implementation of police reforms would be yet another step that would go well with the civil society and well meanings citizens who help in formation of the public opinion.Our society needs a modern, civil and professional police force that treats citizens irrespective of their social or economic status in a humane way.

The National Security Act of 1980 requires a redefinition that should only be applied in clear cases of danger to national security not for frivolous reasons or to make minorities suspect.

At the same time, it should avoid walking into the trap of populism. Making tall promises or handing out doles is self- defeating as it kills competition and healthy race for excellence. Rather it should focus on pathways that can revive economy to create employment.

To reinforce its charge of wrecking institutions like CBI, RBI. Judiciary, Armed Forces, bureaucracy and media, the CMP should aim at presenting a roadmap that would not only restore the autonomy but should go forward of ensuring that no future government could undermine them.

Another area that requires urgent attention is state of education in the country. The opposition alliance should present a plan that can offer meaningful education that equips students with professional tools to be useful for society, industry and business.

India needs to be turned into global educational hub so that they not only attract foreign students but also ensure that our own boys and girls do not look beyond borders to take care of their future.

In the light of the ongoing controversy on the purchase of Rafael jet fighters for the Indian Air Force, a clear message must be conveyed to people and armed forces that no future government could indulge in corruption and graft. The proposed CMP could promise to do away with the first past the post electoral system and propose that it would introduce proportional representation system that alone can preserve and promote diversity of the country. Much need electoral reforms with particular
stress upon financing of political parties and election funding are the need of the hour.

While the CMP would send the right message to the electorate, main key to defeat the BJP-led NDA is the index of opposition unity that means challenging the opponent in a direct contest. Three-cornered or multi-cornered contests should be avoided rather minimized as far as possible.

Mutual accommodation and spirit of give and take is the need of the hour without which no alliance can function. It is true that the Congress being the oldest national party needs to show magnanimity to accommodate genuine interest of competing parties but it is only possible at the level of reasonableness. No party should aim for higher then its potential.

There is no place of arrogance and leaders must avoid arrogating for themselves roles beyond their political size and stature. Therefore, it is necessary to create a federal structure of the proposed alliance by agreeing to appoint national and state level conveners with the objective of streamlining proper coordination among disparate parties.

Beginning is good but electoral success is going to depend upon many factors that may or may not be guided or controlled by opposition alone because the ruling BJP-led NDA dispensation enjoys tremendous advantage of setting the pace of the agenda.

DR. SATISH MISRA IS A VETERAN JOURNALIST & RESEARCH ASSOCIATE WITH OBSERVER RESEARCH FOUNDATION.

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