There wasn’t much anticipation in the Opposition camp about the results for the Assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana, which were held on Monday. When exit polls practically indicated a clean sweep for the saffron party, not much surprise could have been occasioned
The Opposition was dispirited by the shock it received in the last Lok Sabha election and was in disarray. The comprehensive win of the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in part thought to be a consequence of the less-than-transparent functioning of the Election Commission and the questions raised in respect of electronic voting machines.
One day a full-fledged commission of inquiry will be needed to get to the bottom of this — and the allegations either dismissed or upheld. For now, however, the Opposition parties may have expected more of the same in these state polls in the context of EVMs, and clearly showed a lackadaisical approach. For all these reasons, the BJP’s position appeared unassailable. Besides the so-called EVM factor, Mr Modi’s personal appeal — enhanced by his trademark demagogic abilities — seems not to have waned since the Lok Sabha poll. In part this is on account of influential sections of the media, particularly the television channels, becoming force multipliers for the ruling dispensation.
Besides, serious failings of the Modi government on the economic front, which have hurt all Indians, especially the poor, appear to have been more than counter-balanced by the flagrantly majority community-oriented pitch of the ruling party, whose discomfiting of the minority communities was made to look like being part of a constructive programme for social cohesion and gender justice though very aggressive social media and fake news campaigning. The BJP’s “communal” approach does appear to have had considerable appeal, seriously limiting the Opposition parties.
That said, the principal Opposition party has for too long now given the impression of being at sixes and sevens. It has serious leadership issues to contend with — not just at the top but also in the states. Factionalism, historically never too far from the door (since this party was never an authoritarian entity), and ideological incoherence have now come to characterise the Congress. Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as party chief, an unwell Sonia Gandhi entering as interim president, the absence of a cogent proclamation of an alternative vision to that of the RSS-BJP, and no moves being made towards holding a top-to-bottom organisational election based on an authentic membership roster are some of the key issues before the party.
Seen in the context of the just held state polls, the BJP did manage to bridge the gulf with its cantankerous ally Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, while Congress and ally NCP bled everyday with defections and in-fighting. In Haryana too the Congress was plagued by infighting and the non-BJP parties had no semblance of coordination. The index of Opposition disunity was high in both states. But it is never over till it’s over. We shall learn of the voters’ preference tomorrow....