LEADERS of several Opposition parties on Wednesday agreed to field a common candidate against the NDA in the forthcoming Presidential elections scheduled to be held on July 18. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is at the forefront of the opposition bid to field an alternative presidential candidate. Interestingly, among the candidates suggested by Banerjee for the president are Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Dr Farooq Abdullah. Earlier, the joint opposition had urged the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar to be their presidential candidate. He, however, declined the offer. Not all opposition parties are on board. The parties like TRS, BJD, AAP and SAD skipped the joint meeting, dealing a blow not only to opposition unity but also to the chances of fielding a joint candidate with a credible chance to win. The BJP, meanwhile, is on a firm footing. It seems to have the numbers, so could easily get its candidate elected.
However, the opposition’s bid to field an alternative candidate has its own symbolic value. And this is not necessarily about who gets to be the new president of India. The very act of the opposition putting up an alternative candidate sets up an ideological clash with the BJP. This is something the opposition desperately needs, considering the BJP’s idea of India has now been completely mainstreamed. Against this, the opposition including the Congress party lack both, an ideology as well as a political narrative.
The deft blend of ideology, welfarism and PM Modi’s overarching leadership is expected to help the BJP triumph in 2024. The party could even get a stronger majority than it did in 2019. While the opposition is struggling to form a common front, the BJP is busy strengthening its base by single-mindedly pursuing its ideological agenda. And considering its electoral machinery has become all-encompassing, it is likely to get a political foothold in the important Southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Reasonable success in the South after the political dominance in the North will make the BJP invincible for decades to come.
Also compared to the BJP, the opposition has no discourse. The opposition in India has only, what the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar once said, “a reactive narrative”. The BJP, on the other hand, can always bank upon its strong ideological moorings. This has enabled the party to forge a monolithic Hindu vote bank. The strategy has been a factor in the rise of BJP as a national party, up from two seats in 1984 polls to 85 in 1989. Things can still turn around for the opposition if the different parties unite. A coalition at the national level might halt the BJP’s march, though there is no such guarantee given the PM Modi’s spell on the masses. That said, the opposition’s deft handling of the presidential election will certainly give it a chance to become a little more conspicuous in the current political scene, an achievement in itself considering the BJP’s complete dominance.
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