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Opinion | Opposition Trapped by Idea of Who Will Lead Front Against Modi

More important than a strong leader is offering masses a nuanced alternative to the regime by meticulously building an agenda of governance and development, says RJD's national spokesperson.

Updated:July 24, 2017, 9:19 PM IST
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Opinion | Opposition Trapped by Idea of Who Will Lead Front Against Modi
File photo of Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar, Omar Abdullah, Sitaram Yechury attending an event at YMCA grounds.
After Sri Ram Nath Kovind was declared to have won the presidential election, a few media outlets ran stories such as-Opposition Unity Index decimated, opposition in disarray etc.

Little did they think of checking that it was not an election which was contested with the intent of winning, but with the resolve to communicate to the masses that opposition unity is imperative to protect the Constitution, from implicit as well as explicit threats posed by the ideology that is antithetical to the idea of India.

Looking at the coming together of political parties from all across India, the purpose has been achieved and the ongoing churning shall only take it to a higher level. We, in fact, remembered Ram Manojar Lohia, who always maintained contests in democracy provide a platform to articulate ideas and show how they are fundamentally different from your opponent. In this spirit, we wish to take the gathered momentum further.

A government that has summarily failed to be sensitive and sincere about a gamut of issues and concerns affecting the common people has largely engaged itself in the headline management and in grabbing eyeballs through fictitious issues.

While Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh witnessed brazen killing of farmers who had gathered to demand what was promised to them, the government shamelessly blamed the opposition. At Saharanpur, instead of booking the dominant caste perpetrators, it was the victim community of Dalits that had to bear brunt of the government. We are also witness to the increased instances of mob lynching where an ideologically-inspired mob lynches someone and violently alters the very idea of rule of law.

What is worrisome is the fact that any voice raised against the ruling regime at Delhi has to now deal with not only the BJP, the RSS and several of their other social-cultural affiliates but also the agencies such as I-T, ED and CBI.

Without getting into the ‘merit’ of the ‘cases’ whether related to Lalu Prasad Yadav or Arvind Kejriwal or TMC, or even Naveen Patnaik, the standard operating procedure of these agencies has become quite predictable. They are being perceived as the ‘new alliance partners’ of BJP for the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The sum total of the images and issues from the public life is disturbing to anyone who believe that the republic has only one trajectory to follow and that is the trajectory of the Indian Constitution.

It is in this backdrop we should locate the possibility of an oppositional canvas that is committed to people and aims at doing anything to protect the Constitution. But before we do that, we need to seriously diagnose as to what all is ailing is not only our party organisations but our political vision as well.

All those in opposition to BJP must acknowledge that willingly or unwillingly we have reduced our party organizations merely as election fighting machines. We do think of our political engagement with the people only when the election dates are announced. Core ideas which constitute the idea of India viz. freedom, liberty, social and economic justice, and secularism become the talking points for us only during elections and we tend to be oblivious of the fact politics is a serious vocation and progressive politics has to be all the more earnest in communicating and being with the masses.

We are not able to realize that in order to weave an alternative to the right-wing authoritarian posture of BJP and RSS, we all should not appear as reproducing the same economic policy and political philosophy we oppose. We have collectively failed to comprehend that engagement with people and the issues affecting their lives cannot be an episodic phenomenon waiting for the declaration of the date of elections by the Election Commission of India.

In spite of our avowed commitment to representative democracy and secularism, we have silently watched the ‘disenfranchisement’ of certain minority communities and have practically avoided speaking about it, leave aside making it a broad level issue.

When Rohit Vemula’s suicide note raised grim warning about the killer-institutions, we did not do enough except for joining a few candle light marches. Masses on the streets expected us to do away with our comfort zones of studied silence weave an alternative canvas of peoples’ unity. Did we do that? Did we decide to set aside our narrow concerns to draw ‘all on board’ so that people and communities on the margin could be reassured?

More often than not we are trapped in the largely inconsequential issue of who shall lead this peoples’ front as an alternative to Sri Narendra Modi. History is witness to the fact that in order to counter the narrative of the ‘myth of a strong leader’ you need robust alternative which provides hope to the people in perpetual distress and draw them in with an all-inclusive development programme.

There is a famous quote as reminder to our contemporary times that, Lenin or no Lenin, revolution was imminent in Russia. Thus what is of far more concern is to develop a nuanced alternative to the regime by meticulously building an agenda of governance and development which goes on to connect the farmers, agricultural labourers, small traders and jobless youth.

Our endeavor on these fundamental concerns are practically dismal. Political parties are dynamic and living organizations of people and they want us to be actively visible in their moments of despair, in their phases of distress. Have we done anything beyond hollow symbolism? I know it is very difficult to accept but please remember that people have not failed us rather we have failed the people by falling in the trap of ‘Brand-Making’ politics.

We have been reactive to the agenda set by the combine of BJP and RSS rather than going on the streets with the proactive agenda. The list of our collective failure in reading peoples’ mind and disappointing scale of our political impairment is growing longer by the day.

While we are not able to develop a substantive alternative to the neo-liberal right-wing agenda of the BJP, we are supposed to contest and challenge. Many friends are falling in the trap of a narrative of 11, Ashok Road, where significant voices from within the opposition are hounded under the cover of CBI, I-T and ED. Can’t our friends see that whenever and however little churning for the opposition unity gets momentum, the BJP machinery goes on a war footing to malign the image of the leaders of opposition through these agencies?

The latest in the series is the Odissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik; a glaring and brazen reminder of the new BJP’s politics under the present leadership that if you are incapable of dealing with your opposition through political vocabulary or programmes, you take the cover of these agencies to malign and discredit them.

The writer, Professor Manoj Kumar Jha, is the national spokesperson of RJD

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