- With recent wins in UP & Delhi, BJP appears to be politically invincible in the absence of strong opposition
- Regional parties like AIADMK, BJD, TMC are growing increasingly unstable
- Leaders like Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar, once considered formidable opponents to Modi, appear to have lost the plot
- BJP has its own share of problems, but chances of opposition forming an anti-BJP combine are low
After the resounding victories of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the UP assembly and Delhi municipal elections, the party increasingly appears to be politically invincible.
The three parties which offered some resistance to the BJP in 2014 – the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal – are not in the pink of health today.
The AIADMK has all but collapsed after former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's death, the BJD has suffered serious reverses in the local polls and is feeling distinctly nervous. On the other hand, the Trinamool Congress has shot itself in the foot with its stance on Muslims alienating the Bengali middle-class Hindus. Additionally, several of the party’s prominent faces are embroiled in scams.
Among the supposedly all-India parties, the fact that the Congress has fallen back on Sonia Gandhi to reach out to the regional leaders for an anti-BJP alliance is proof that the party’s attempts to prop up Rahul Gandhi haven’t succeeded.
It will not be easy for Sonia Gandhi – who is clearly not as fit and energetic as before – to take up the sort of role she played to bring the non-BJP parties together in 2004.
Those who defeated the BJP in 2015, like Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi and Nitish Kumar in Bihar, have taken a beating since.
Problems Faced By the BJP
It is not surprising, therefore, that the BJP is now eying the east and the northeast as its new areas of conquest. The alacrity with which Congress MLAs in various states are joining the BJP shows that they regard their former adversary as a greener pasture for political and personal advancement.
The BJP is not bereft of problems. For one, it has become a virtual one-man party with its dependence on Narendra Modi for success in even municipal elections. The party does not have a second line of defence, if only because Modi has kept once popular faces – like Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha and veterans like LK Advani – well outside the organisation.
Another such problem is the fact that the economy has not been picking up in a manner which will sustain hope about the success of Modi's development agenda. The Prime Minister, therefore, has been speaking more about a pro-poor thrust (a la Indira Gandhi) than about rapid growth.
Opposition Making All The Wrong Moves
The BJP’s adversaries have undermined themselves with self-defeating moves. Take for instance, the time Sonia Gandhi stalled the Manmohan Singh government's forward march on the economic front by opting for extravagant populist measures, thereby handing over her own government's development agenda on a platter to the BJP
As Chidambaram ruefully admitted later, the government should not have taken “the foot off the accelerator of reforms”.
Similarly, Kejriwal came to power with the assurance of providing a clean government as promised by his one-time mentor, Anna Hazare. While the social activist worked for the setting up of a Lokpal, an anti-corruption ombudsman, Kejriwal's own internal ombudsman, Admiral L Ramdas, had to leave the Aam Admi Party (AAP). He was ordered out for having questioned the CM’s authoritarian style, which also led to the ouster of Kejriwal’s former allies, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.
By the time Kejriwal had concluded the purge of his own party, it was clear that power was his primary goal and not governance like he claimed.
Once this obsession became clear, it was obvious that his party's days were numbered. The aam admi, or the common man, after whom the outfit was named had seen through his act – the AAP's defeat in Delhi, Punjab and Goa is proof.
Like Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar, too, has failed to live up to the expectations he had drummed up during his stint as Chief Minister. Then, he had successfully rid Bihar of the lawlessness – or the jungle raj, as it was called – that was rampant during the tenures of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leaders Laloo Prasad Yadav and his wife, Rabri Devi.
But now, as an ally of Laloo Prasad, and with Rabri Devi backing her son Tejaswi’s elevation from Deputy Chief Minister to Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar's focus is to somehow hold on to power.
So, who will stop the BJP? Not only is there no one in sight, but there is little chance of the opposition parties being able to put together an anti-BJP combine because of their fractious internal relations.
They also lack a forward-looking economic agenda, one which appeals to the young like Modi's Make In India, Digital India and other programmes.
(The author is a political analyst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are personal. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)