Since the political tsunami that struck India’s opposition on May 23rd, the recovery has been rather a distant dream, instead the tide continues to rattle and divide them. As the long debated issue of article 370 came up for debate in parliament, India witnessed a divided opposition with no clear policy or stand on the issue. India’s major opposition party, the Congress continues to struggle without a president since Rahul Gandhi’s resignation. What is ahead for these parties in the times to come? On a larger note, what is the future of opposition politics in India?
Future of Congress party in India:
“Nobody has to teach us nationalism, we are the original party of nationalism” roared Shashi Tharoor during a discussion on article 370 in loksabha. Indeed the Congress party that finds their roots in the freedom struggle represent values on which India has been build upon. The question really is regarding, if the Congress is able to live up to its own history? During the freedom movement and few years later too, the party had fresh air of inner democracy within, and healthy competition took place too. Ever since the party has become about few individuals or families, the downward spiral began. Today as the party speaks on the attacks on democracy by the government of the day, many see it as a hypocritical statement since the party in itself doesn’t function on the basis of democracy. Shashi Tharoor recently in an interview with NDTV called for elections inside the party, but the responses he got from many leaders within the party were rather on a negative note. The problem with the Congress doesn’t necessarily start or end with the Gandhi family as many feel, but many leaders with zero knowledge regarding ground reality cling on to posts in the highest bodies. A Congress revival is necessary for the vibrancy of our democracy, but a complete inner surgery remains the only solution. Leaders such as Sachin Pilot have proved working on the ground can shower results in favour of the party. Prof Yogendra Yadav recently wrote an open letter to the former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi about a future Congress party that can be an umbrella for many thought streams. The question of Congress revival shall continue to be a heated discussion but one can firmly say that, the idea of Congress remains as relevant as it was, can the party live up to its own ideals? Only time will tell.
Regional Parties and Left Politics in India:
In India most regional parties have become about a single leader or a dynasty clinging to their power in the respective states. None of them have adapted the Modi era election style or have they had any serious introspection about their own ways of functioning. Most regional parties remain divided on their stand towards the government. None of these parties have a programme or something new to offer. The hegemony of the BJP is largely thanks to the record and reputation of many of these parties. The rise of AAP has been contained largely due to the poor record of the party in maintaining or building strong regional faces outside Delhi. AAP has turned into a regional force in Delhi with a small presence in Punjab.
The Story of Communist politics in India remains very different from all other streams. Right from their peak in 2004 to one of the worst performances in 2019, it has been a mixed bag. The setback is largely due to the failure in Bengal. Even as left becomes weaker electorally, they had their presence felt across with many protests and agitations over the last 5 years. The Kisan movements across the country have been a huge success especially the Sikar agitation and the Mumbai Long March. The question of left revival depends on how well can they adopt their ideology into the modern day realities and how strong will people’s struggles become. The biggest challenge ahead for the left is converting movements into political capital. Pinarayi Vijayan remains a strong face in Kerala, but the party needs a new face to revive in Bengal.
Lack of Direction/Programme
One may disagree with everything the BJP wants to achieve, but even the biggest critics have to accept the fact that since decades they have been perusing a set of policies, a programme and an ideology. Be it article 370, Ram Mandir or Uniform civil code, these are all ideas that are sold to the people. When was the last time we heard a long term programme from one of the opposition parties? One of the major reasons youth during the 20th century got attracted to communism was their detailed plan of action and clear cut ideology. What does the Congress party stand for today? Does it stand for neo-liberalism? Does it stand for social-democracy? Or is it an umbrella organisation that encompasses all ideas? If so can someone like an Indian version of Bernie Sanders be accepted by the Congress? The victory of the BJP has to be seen not just electorally but also on the level of narrative. The mainstream ideology that drives society has been taken over by the BJP. If the opposition wishes to bring a change to this, it is a long constructive struggle that lies ahead.
It has taken so many years for the BJP to replace Congress both in power electorally and socially. So the reverse process will be as long and hard as it was.
The real question confronting us is whether the opposition block understands the gravity of the crisis they are in? With even Congress party choking with lack of funds, only a return to people can save these parties.
Will it be a Congress revival or rise of a new alternative, India desperately looks ahead for a vibrant strong and constructive opposition.