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Why blame opposition? 2014 verdict had told civil society where India was heading

Rahul Gandhi with civil society leaders
By Joe Athialy*
“The winner takes it all, the loser standing small” -- ABBA
Now that BJP won has emphatically, everything BJP did is right, ‘touching a chord with the common people’, one is a Chanakya, and another a giant. Every other party and leader got it all wrong. Their slogans did not strike. Their strategies were wrong, they woke up to forming alliances late, and all that.
But let’s be fair.
Blaming opposition alone for BJP’s victory is unfair. Yes, the opposition could have done more, better and smarter. But in front of BJP’s hyper nationalism, expansive use of fake media, divisive politics, negative campaigning, pathetically lowering the quality of political discourse, getting even personal, and splurging of resources, opposition fell short. In fact, one ray of hope amidst this gloom is that the opposition did not stoop down to BJP’s level and they held their nerves and played it relatively fair.
Particularly, the Congress party, despite all shortcomings, raised the right kind of issues – joblessness, crumbling economy, demonetisation, GST, Rafael, cronyism et al. Every time BJP wanted to change the narrative of the election campaign Congress repeatedly tried to bring it back to the above issues. Admit, it was not enough and it did not succeed. But let’s not forget that Congress tried, and gave a spirited and combative fight. They did not mince words in opposing BJP. It was loud and clear.
Looking back at the years what Congress did not do was taking the struggle to the streets. They missed all possible opportunities to do so. Something which not only would have made the fight real, but energised their cadre as well. They pinned their hopes only on a savvy social media campaign.
Apart from opposition parties, the results are also a clarion call to civil society organisations and people’s movements. In the recent last few decades, they tried to shun electoral politics (except in 2014), tried to be a pressure group and asserted themselves to be the beholders of people’s politics. No disagreement with all that. That worked when the founding principles of India was still intact. That, when the ruling dispensation had to take the cover of some people-centric policies, upholding the principles of democracy and secularism.
That is history.
The ground beneath our feet has moved. Values and principles sacrificed, institutions damaged, spaces for debates and dissent shrunk. Democracy cannot any longer be taken for granted. It has to be fought for and protected. Every day.
2014 was the closest when civil society organizations (CSOs)/people's movements (PMs) took part in electoral politics in large numbers. That Aam Aadmi Party, under the banner all of them fought the elections, failed to make any dent then, and the way it disseminated soon after made nearly all to leave electoral politics and withdraw to their individual struggles and issues. 2014 verdict should have told us where we are heading to and the past five years should have invested in building up and spreading a challenge to the fascist forces.
What it calls for today is an active participation in electoral politics by CSOs/PMs. Calling spade a spade, taking sides, opposing some and supporting some other. That does not take away their right to fight the parties they support on certain issues and that does not make them apologists of any political parties.
Time for general campaigns like save secularism, save democracy and save Constitution is gone. Now it’s time to reclaim what is lost.
Electoral politics is too important to be left only to a few political parties and some leaders.
---
*With the Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), Delhi

Comments

Leo Saldanha said…


Interesting analysis. Especially the part where you say Opposition should have hit the streets. Turned out it was only AIKS that repeatedly brought the genuine struggles of farmers, tribal’s and forest dwellers to the street. Used to be a time when this was done by mainstream and major political parties. When workers and farmers are abandoned by political parties, they lose touch with the pulse of people. And that gap has to be closed. Which means, Opposition leaders must not merely endorse issues and concerns civil society, workers, farmers, Fishworkers, tribals, etc., have been raising. They must struggle with them and find their own soul away from caste and clan dynamics
Snigdha Samal said…


The idea of opposition hitting the street would have been a nonstarter. Most of the notable opposition leaders have come thus far via other means than activism or grassroots level work. Without presence of glamour or family name none of them can gather a crowd even in a flea market with just sloganeering or a fiery speech. The Communist leaders we see are fast losing their relevance. Let's admit the Indian political parties are feudal and rely entirely on minions hard work. But since the emergence of Modi the minions and their followers have found a better or more viable option. This is an opportunity to break the old wheels of the inner party functioning.

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