But almost every political analyst anticipated the BJP’s victory, so was the nature of the ‘Modi Wave’. Slogans like “Apki Baar Modi Sarkaar”, and “Achhe Din Aane Waale Hein” acted like a catalyst in turning the anguish that people already had in their hearts, against numerous shortcomings of the second term of UPA, into an electoral gain for the BJP.
But one important thing to remember here is that until the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had been in the opposition for the previous 8-10 years.
An opposition that eventually defeated the party in power.
And after that, coming back with a greater electoral majority in the 2019 elections, even after five years of anti-incumbency.
Now it is important to note that many factors contributed to BJP’s humongous victory in the recent Lok Sabha elections, one of them being the aggressive campaign that the party ran based on its appeal to nationalism and its deliberate push towards Hindutva, which eventually led to a rise in communalism within the social fabric of the country.
But the BJP can also give credit for its victory to the Congress’ incompetency.
But ever since the BJP has come into power in the Centre and in some key states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, the main opposition party of the country i.e., Indian National Congress (INC) has seen a steep decline in its vote share across the country.
A fraction of this erosion can definitely be attributed to the parallel rise of the Bhartiya Janata Party, but it is not the only reason.
Before India became independent, the Congress was at the forefront of the freedom struggle and it was fighting the war where it was taking place, in the streets of the country.
Can we say the same about the state of Congress today? I am not so sure. While we do see the party and its members active on social media platforms like Twitter, it cannot be an alternative to on-ground protests and uprise.
It is true that in today’s world, social media provides you with a huge audience to put forward your views but here’s the thing: a majority of India’s population resides in the rural areas of the country and most of them are definitely not on Twitter.
Hence, if you want to influence their thinking, social media is not the place to do it.
And then, it is also a fact that sometimes the very nature of such platforms makes them echo chambers for political parties or party leaders as most of the people following them usually have a strong confirmation bias.
As a result, these parties or leaders on such platforms are often engaging with the people that already support them.
It can’t be understated that Congress needs to think out of the box and fast because it requires no less than a miracle to defeat a political mammoth that the BJP is with its unmatched resources and robust election machinery.
The media which is supposedly the fourth pillar in any democracy has shown no hesitation in bowing down to the might of the BJP.
So, it is unreasonable to think that it will provide a level playing field to opposing points of view.
Therefore, the opposition needs to come up with effective measures to combat the narrative against them.
It can start doing this by accepting everything that is going wrong on the inside. The Congress party has not even shown the courage to acknowledge and respect the various dissenting voices within the party.
Just look at the G-23 faction of the party as an example. It’s been 2 years since the last general elections and the party has not been able to duly elect a party president.
Let me be the one to say it: If the Gandhis are no longer effective, it is time to move on. It can be said with some certainty that a majority of the people of this country are somewhat fatigued with seeing a family being in command at the highest levels of the government.
Even the party has lost some crucial elections under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, the most recent being the State Assembly elections held in Kerala and Assam which had a great scope for the Congress to come back to power.
And it is not like the party lacks talent. But many capable and influential party leaders like Himanta Biswa Sarma, Jyotiraditya Scindia, and the latest addition being that of Jitin Prasada, have decided to leave the Congress and join other parties, specifically the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Losing such key members of the leadership, who very well could have been the future of the party, is a big deal.
Yes, it can be said that the BJP baited them to leave the Congress in exchange for the promise of power and recognition, and who does not want that.
But if a leader decides to leave the party just because of material gains, then it means that the party has no ideological glue which is holding its members together.
At this juncture, the party needs to thoroughly re-evaluate its course of action and start from the very top.
While it is correct that the regional parties have proved to be a strong force against the BJP’s juggernaut, it should also be kept in mind that forming a coalition of all the opposition parties, regional and national, on a country-wide scale is a very difficult task.
And it is definitely more vulnerable due to the underlying uncertainties that come with these parties. Thus, someone has to lead.
It can be a party or a face, behind whom the others can rally. Given the current scenario, it is most likely going to be the Congress party since no other party in the opposition has a nationwide presence that the Congress has.
If that does not happen, the BJP will go on asking: If not Modi, then who? And although this question makes it seem like India is a presidential system of governance, it is one of the factors that got the BJP elected in the first place.
Like it or not, most people do prefer a strong unified front as opposed to a fragmented one. The opposition cannot run from it.
Over the past few years, we have seen that the general public, especially the youth, has proven to be the natural opposition against any objectionable government policy as in the case of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Farm Laws.
But the political parties have not been able to manifest this anger into a movement of a kind that could haunt the present regime.
This gives the BJP government a leeway to act somewhat arrogantly without any feeling of accountability and in a manner which some analysts have labeled as an elected autocracy.
There is also the aspect of nationalism in the Indian political landscape. Over the past decade, the BJP has been able to build up a narrative that the opposition parties and any opposition, in general, are somehow not against the government, but against the nation.
Although any sensible person will refuse to accept this belief propagated by the government, it also won’t be incorrect to say that this thought has gained traction in a considerable proportion of the country’s population.
I don’t need to tell you that India’s literacy rate is quite average and therefore, expecting the masses to have a good understanding of democratic norms is an unrealistic expectation.
Accordingly, any rhetoric if propagated effectively, can inevitably influence people’s thought process in a short span of time.
And this is exactly what has happened in the case of nationalism. Add to that a pinch of communalism, and you have a recipe for disaster.
When the prevailing narrative among people is actually not against the government but against the opposition, it makes the opposition’s job way more difficult.
And to get out of this trap, it needs to do something substantive. Not on social media, but on the ground. Because the waves on social media come and go, but the wave on the ground stays.
It is believed that Congress has always been a party that has witnessed a plethora of ideologies flourish within itself. From the very beginning, it had been a symbol of inclusion.
A party in which Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and Subhash Chandra Bose could co-exist. But lately, it seems that the party has lost itself in the process of clinging to a particular ideology.
To counter the Hindutva narrative put forward by the BJP, Congress is either trying to mimic the same or trying to lean towards minority appeasement.
But what they fail to understand is that neither of them is going to work. The party can never flawlessly mimic something that it doesn’t believe in, and by appeasing the other section, it plays right into the BJP’s hands and solidifies the communal narrative that the BJP is already trying to build against the Congress.
The party needs to demonstrate to the public that no extreme, whether left or right, can be good for the democratic health of the country.
Secularism, how boring and unenthusiastic it may seem in front of charged communal chants, is the only way to salvage democracy.
And loose rhetorical statements from the opposition party leaders are not going to help. Hoping to ride on the back of anti-incumbency is definitely not going to help.
Those in power are waiting to turn even the slightest flaw of the opposition into an electoral storm.
It is time for the Congress to get creative and precise in its approach, or the next general elections will not be known for the BJP’s victory, but for the Congress’ demise.
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