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With Rise of BJP, Opposition is 'Heading for the Hills'

The article refers to a time when the BJP completed its full five-year term under Atal Bihari Vajpayee before being thrown out of power by the Congress, for two consecutive terms.

Updated:August 4, 2017, 2:54 PM IST
With Rise of BJP, Opposition is 'Heading for the Hills'
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: PIB)
New Delhi: The Bihar upheaval is the latest signal that the BJP is the new center of politics in India, says an opinion published on the website of Foreign Affairs magazine.

“The BJP not only occupies a prime position for the country’s next general election — scheduled for 2019 — but it is also moving at breakneck speed to cement its hold over powerful state governments. Although the BJP government’s gathering strength signals policy stability and political consolidation, it simultaneously raises concerns about the health of India’s democratic checks and balances,” the article says.

The article refers to a time when the BJP completed its full five-year term under Atal Bihari Vajpayee before being thrown out of power by the Congress, for two consecutive terms.

“But few could envisage the next act in this drama: the emergence on the national stage of Modi, a provincial politician who had been the long-serving chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Touting his business-friendly policies, nationalist rhetoric, and an aspirational appeal that struck a chord with a young and increasingly restless India, Modi led his party to a historic electoral rout. Securing the first single-party parliamentary majority in three decades, Modi has ushered in a golden age for the BJP,” the article adds.

One major factor spurring the BJP’s growth, the article adds, is its systematic capture of state governments. Starting from 2014 when the NDA was in power in just six states, today it governs 18 states across the country, including Uttar Pradesh, Goa, and Manipur.

“This brings us to Bihar, whose politics has resembled a soap opera of late. A pivotal political bastion in the Hindi heartland, the state is home to one of the few Indian politicians — Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United), a regional political outfit — with the potential to go toe-to-toe with Modi at a national level,” the article adds.

On Nitish Kumar, the article says there is a deeper calculation at play here.

“Kumar recognised that the 2019 elections are likely a foregone conclusion. After the BJP’s sweep of Uttar Pradesh, opposition politician Omar Abdullah famously tweeted: “At this rate, we might as well forget 2019 & start planning/hoping for 2024.” Kumar apparently agrees; as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them,” the op-ed says, adding that BJP’s momentum has opened up unprecedented opportunities for the party.

“On August 5, India’s elected officials will select the country’s vice president; if the BJP gets its way, the country’s three topmost political positions will be in the party’s hands for the first time in India’s history. In the longer term, the addition of Bihar will hasten the arrival of the BJP’s majority in the upper house, whose members are indirectly elected by India’s state legislatures; this could materialise as soon as late 2018. With control of both legislative chambers, the BJP can push through its legislative agenda with few impediments,” the article adds.

The article further mentions the unique challenge that the rise of BJP brings forth: Hindu majoritarianism.

“In recent months, hardline elements of the party and its numerous affiliates have openly brandished their Hindu chauvinism in a disturbing fashion. Lynchings of those suspected of engaging in the cattle trade (according to Hindu tradition, cows are revered) are on the rise. In Uttar Pradesh, Modi named a controversial Hindu spiritual leader, Yogi Adityanath, as his hand-picked chief minister. Adityanath has a long history of engaging in anti-minority rhetoric, and his ascension has raised fresh concerns that his followers will be emboldened to convert his words into deeds,” the article says.

Although India’s macro indicators, the article adds, continue to trend positive — growth is steady if not extraordinary, inflation has declined, and foreign investment is up — the ground realities often paint a different picture.

“Modi’s gambit last year to suddenly invalidate 86 percent of India’s circulating currency may deliver long-term benefits in terms of encouraging a digital economy, but it has created short-term disruption. Rising joblessness is testing the patience of India’s youthful workforce, which is moving to cities in search of formal sector employment but is often forced to settle for far less. Domestic investment continues to be snarled by a banking system saddled with bad loans and business houses laden with debt. True, the Modi government finally managed to push through the long-awaited national Goods and Services Tax (GST), but it comes replete with exceptions, caveats, and multiple rates that have dimmed its luster,” the article says.

This is where the opposition, as mentioned in the article, possesses potential ammunition.

“Another round of state elections are due in December, including in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, which has long been a BJP bastion. Last week, the leader of the Congress Party in Gujarat resigned in disgust over an alleged “conspiracy” to oust him before the upcoming poll. The party leadership had to surreptitiously ferry its legislators to a resort in south India just to prevent further defections,” the op-ed adds.

The author says that the symbolism is telling: as the BJP grows in strength, the opposition is literally heading for the hills.

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