Close this search box.

Stable govt, strong Oppn, ifs & buts

   By Vijay Darda | 10-06-2024

When voters express their true feelings, everything else becomes secondary; this is the strength of our democracy

Last week, in this very column, I wrote that democracy has not lost, it has won again. I wrote this because I have never doubted the maturity of the Indian voter’s judgment. Voters assess political parties not only on the parameters of their basic needs but also on constitutional standards. When voters express their true feelings, everything else becomes secondary. There’s a saying in English: “Winning is not always a victory and losing is not always a defeat.”

Exactly the same happened in this election. Voters neither heeded the NDA’s claim of 400 seats nor the opposition’s call for a majority. They voted the BJP as the single largest party and granted the NDA coalition a majority. Their decision was clear: the NDA should form the government again but it must face a strong opposition. It’s natural that when one side becomes strong and the other remains weak, balance is lost. Voters have corrected this imbalance. Dutch writer Paul Henning’s assertion that democracy can only be measured in the presence of an opposition seems relevant. Myanmar’s celebrated democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi said criticising the opposition shows a lack of understanding of the fundamental concept of democracy, and suppressing the opposition is like undermining the roots of democracy. India’s first Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru also believed in this political philosophy. I have consistently written that for democracy to remain strong, a robust opposition is a necessity.

There is no doubt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 10-year tenure has been marked by numerous achievements and bold decisions like the abrogation of Article 370. It is during his tenure that India’s voice reached the farthest corners of the world. However, voters started feeling that the opposition was continuously weakening and the ruling party was exploiting this anomaly. When leaders associated with the ruling party tried to realise the dream of a “Congress-free India”, voters became alert. How can anyone even think of the annihilation of a party in a democracy? I have always maintained that no one can obliterate the Congress party. The Congress tree might seem wilted but its roots are deep. Just as a single branch of a banyan tree reaching the ground can take root and grow into a new tree, the Congress party has similar resilience. Due to internal conflicts and the tendency of its leaders to pull each other down, the Congress faced tough times, but it still had potential and capability. This time, it formed alliances with regional parties and regained voters’ trust. Now, Congress and its allies must prove how well they can measure up to the voters’ expectations.

Before discussing the challenges faced by the Congress-led INDIA bloc, it is important to recognise the significant challenge facing Narendra Modi, who has taken the oath as Prime Minister for the third time. In his first two terms, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had a strong numerical advantage, forcing NDA allies to the sidelines. However, the situation has changed this time. Despite emerging as the single largest party, the BJP critically depends on its allies for a majority. Although Chandrababu Naidu, Nitish Kumar, Eknath Shinde and Chirag Paswan have pledged their support for full five years, Naidu and Nitish are seasoned politicians who won’t do it for free. Their time has come, and they will extract their pound of flesh. After all, they aren’t from BJP!

In this scenario, Modi’s challenges are quite evident. Will his aspirations and plan for a more robust, empowered India during his third tenure materialise? Can the country still rapidly advance toward becoming the third largest economy in the world? It is widely acknowledged that coalition governments undermine the country’s image abroad. Foreign perceptions and perspectives change. This will be a major challenge for Modi. And most importantly, will the man who proudly claimed “Modi ki guarantee” find it easy to compromise?

Some speculate that the BJP might engineer defections and poach MPs from other parties to keep Naidu, Nitish, Shinde and Chirag in check. However, I think the BJP should be cautious in this regard. Indian voters dislike such divisive tactics. Analysts clearly state that one major reason for the BJP’s defeat in Maharashtra was this very tendency to engineer defections in other parties.

As for the Congress and the INDIA bloc, they must establish themselves as a strong but constructive Opposition. With so many parties, managing everyone will be tough. Each has its own boundless aspirations, while the bait of temptation is ever-present. This is an era of ifs and buts.

View Image

Relevant Articles