Ever since Narendra Modi walked into his new residence at Lok Kalyan marg, opposition undertook all possible options to remove him & defeat BJP however always trumped by vigilant, agile & adaptable leadership of BJP.
With less than a year to go for general elections, opposition finally got an opportunity to showcase a rare show of strength with 26 parties coming together in Bangaluru. Congress, now the driving force behind the alliance gave UPA and coined a new acronym I.N.D.I.A. This led to an unwanted debate of I.N.D.I.A vs BHARAT. We will keep this debate of I.N.D.I.A vs BHARAT for some other day. For now, let’s focus on opposition strategies & possible narratives that can help them to counter BJP led NDA.
Before getting into strategies, let’s put some thoughts on what really hurting this alliance & preventing them to connect with people. Basically, there are two huge challenges for opposition
- Credibility crisis- Opposition lacks credibility & because of it they are not able to build a trust bridge with people. Let’s looks at some data points of leading parties of the alliance. Congress, the lead party of the alliance has not been able to repeat its government in any of the state in last 15 to 20 years with exception of Assam but that too, they are not able to regain Assam. Win in Karnataka has pumped Congress, but they must be fooling themselves if they believe in result without analyzing the reasons of result. The fact is its BJP which has lost the elections and Congress was just the beneficiary. Not able to retain government state a simple fact that Congress is not able to deliver promised results and thrown out of the office in next elections. So, there is serious credibility issues on Congress. Next in line is JDU which is deep dived into corruption charges. Infact, an under-construction bridge has collapsed twice speaks volume about corrupt practices in the government machinery. TMC is no different, Mamta Banerjee, Abhishek Banerjee & most of the TMC leaders are running around court on corruption charges. Lastly, AAP which has promised to transform Delhi in lines of London and Singapore but after years of being in power, people are observing no improvement in infrastructure. A few days of rain and Delhi was flooding. So, all these parties are not lived to the promises & there is serious credibility issues which they must bridge if they wish to put any fight to BJP led NDA.
- Leadership crisis- Over the past few elections, the election in India is increasingly fought in presidential way. Opposition biggest challenge is to find a leader who can match the charisma & appeal of PM Narendra Modi. Loot at their options of opposition parties. The first name is Rahul Gandhi, but the way Rahul Gandhi conduct himself in public and his commitment to put up a fight plays into the hand of BJP. He is inconsistent & blinded sycophants around him. Second in line is Nitish Kumar. Nitish has very limited influence in Bihar and outside Bihar, he has no influence. Of late, Nitish Kumar is facing serious credibility issues because of the musical chair he played with BJP & RJD over the years. Also, rampant corruption in his government adding to his misery. Third in line is Mamta Banerjee, who has no influence outside Bengal & in within Bengal, she has stiff local opposition from Congress and left parties. The last possible candidate of opposition can be self-promoted Arvind Kejriwal but like others, he has hardly any influence outside Delhi or Punjab, and he is not stable with his own agenda make him less acceptable to opposition alliance.
However, opposition parties maintained that they decide on leadership at the right time however without a leader, a team is like captained by 11 players & heading nowhere. The second important part of any strategy planning is the agenda, or the narrative required to go to the people for getting votes. In my opinion, opposition failed to learn anything from BJP in last few decades. The reason is BJP is successful today because they set the right narrative which is closer to the heart of the people & that help them to make the right connections with people whereas opposition is carrying the same old narrative which has no takers. Let’s look it at one by one
- Save Democracy- The first & foremost agenda of opposition alliance is saving the democracy campaign. They completely forgotten the fact that India has been the biggest & most vibrant democracy in the world. The world learned from Indian democracy to find ways & means to strengthen democracy in their own country. People are free to express their views even if it is against the interest of the country, block roads for months & transfer of power post-election from one party to another is very smooth. Election results are respected & accepted by everyone. Democracy is so deep rooted in India that it can never in danger. There are many things to save in India & opposition should shift focus on those issues. I will come to that later in this article.
- Modi hatao..desh bachao- The second narrative of opposition alliance is Modi hatao but why Modi to be removed, they don’t have any answer. How Modi as leader is harming the country will not cut any ice with the people. Under PM Modi leadership, country has grown leaps & bounds over the years. Now, India is fifth largest economy in the world & has a bigger say in world affairs. As per UN, A staggering 415 million people came out of poverty in 15 years. Attacking PM Modi will go against the opposition. They must avoid PM Modi in election campaign to give them an opportunity to stand a chance to build rapport with the people.
- Secularism– Minorities especially Muslims in India are concentrated vote banks. It is perceived that they will never vote for BJP & this led to a war among opposition to get these votes in their favour. In one of the biggest mistakes in Indian parliament history, Rajiv Gandhi government went against the supreme court verdict to deny basic maintenance to Shah Bano. This led to an increased competition among opposition & each opposition parties made concentrated effort to appease Muslims & that gave birth to pseudo secularism in India. Indians are brainwashed by political parties to an extent that appeasement or favouring Muslims start meaning secularism. The real meaning of secularism lost its significance. The irony is hardcore fundamental forces like AIMIM, Samwajwadi party are called secular parties. India is a secular country since hundreds of years. Hinduism culture has always lived a secular life. Because of its secular nature, other religions flourished in India. Voters who are much matured now is not ready to buy this rhetoric anymore.
So, the top three agenda of opposition alliance hurt more than it helps them to gain votes. They need to mature like voters & drop these false narratives from the campaign to give them any chance to fight with BJP.
Next steps for Opposition parties to positively start the campaign-
It’s going to be a long journey for the alliance but to have impact they must start on right notes. Their priority must be to build connect & rapport with the voters. To build rapport with people, opposition must take issues which people can relate themselves. In place of positioning them as a crying baby and going to voters as victims, they must speak stories that resonates with people needs & aspirations. In my opinion, they should begin with three main people centric agenda to set the new narratives
- Unemployment- Unemployment rate in India, across the globe is high & growing. It’s impossible for any government to completely resolve this problem. To be honest, I don’t see opposition can making any difference. But by raising this issue opposition can easily help them connect with young people who are desperate to find a job.
- Agricultural infrastructure– A very large population of India are farmers and depend on agriculture income for their livelihood. However, infrastructure in this sector grossly neglected by most of the political parties. Like minorities, they are also treated as vote banks. The fact is agriculture in India purely depends upon the mercy of rains is extremely painful. Opposition must highlight this & put their thoughts on how to build infrastructure in agriculture sector. Let put their plans to the voters & gain voters’ confidence.
- Migration– Despite increasing income, millions coming out of poverty, migration in India is at all-time high. People are increasingly leaving villages and moving to the cities. It has been a real issue for the country very close to migrant population, but no political party is talking about it. Opposition must use this to build connect with the voters.
Elections cannot be fought with proxy narratives. Every political party must pitch for real issues rather going behind farcical agenda. At present, voter thinks that opposition came together because they wish to save their political family & have no intent of improving lives people. At present, people will not listen to opposition alliance because opposition is speaking only about their dynast leaders & misery they are facing in the current regime.
The priority of opposition should be to weave strategy to get connected with the people. To find a narrative that can bring them closer to the people. Unemployment, Agriculture infrastructure & migration are those such issues that can be of great help to them. Failing to do that, opposition alliance may have to witness another electoral debacle.