Has Opposition got the winning formula?

Rival parties now seem better geared to face Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s winning combination than it was over previous years

After being able to form governments in Maharashtra and Jharkhand, the Opposition has almost turned tables for the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party over the Citizenship Amendment Act. Has Opposition got the winning formula?

The Opposition finally seems to have got the ammunition to effectively take on BJP’s ‘Jori No.1’ — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The two leaders, who looked almost invincible till recently, now suddenly seem vulnerable.

When Congress leader and former Home Minister, P Chidambaram tweeted, “Dented in Haryana, Denied in Maharashtra, Defeated in Jharkhand”, it was clear that the Opposition seemingly has got the ammo that it was looking for. And it would not have come for the Opposition at a better time as the main Opposition party Congress recently marked its 135th Foundation Day with “Save Constitution-Save India rallies”.

The Opposition now seems better geared to face Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s winning combination than it was over previous years. Is it fluke or a genuine winning formula?

Are the wide spread protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens pointers to the reality that Opposition has been able to cover the lost ground that it conceded to the BJP during the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections? Has the Opposition finally found the narrative it had long been looking after the ruling BJP decimated it in State after State and in two general elections?

As debate over it intensifies, it would be interesting to see how the fractured Opposition becomes the face of the people’s movement underway against the CAA and NRC. Political analysts say that the BJP had been winning election after election on the national narrative, be it promise of “achhe din” in 2014 elections and “national security” in 2019. 

The Opposition has now got the right narrative and the BJP has been pushed to defend the policy decisions. The ruling party has asked its cadre to reach out to three crore families to explain CAA. The moot question remains whether the Opposition would be able to build up an anti BJP sentiment and coin a suitable slogan to hit out at the ruling party.

Political analysts say that the current protests are like a repeat of larger public sentiment that was seen build up around Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement in 2011 during the UPA-II. The Anna Hazare led movement with the Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi like faces, had proved the undoing of Congress led UPA in 2014 general elections. This had become a mass movement and spontaneity was the hallmark of the agitation against the Congress government then.

The series of corruption cases and scams that surfaced in media during those days coupled with governance paralysis proved too difficult for then ruling UPA to counter. The Opposition believes that the current agitation and different parties coming together would be akin to the mass movement against UPA. The difference this time is that then the target was UPA and now it would be BJP. It is to be seen if the Opposition optimism will stay and prove the test of time.

Immediately, it seems that the Opposition may get another boost with BJP not able to match up to the AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal who is making a serious bid to regain power once again. The political analysts say that the tally of AAP may not be as impressive as it was during the last Assembly election 67 out of 70 but the party would sail through.

The Congress is in overdrive ever since it tasted success in Maharashtra and Jharkhand in sewing post election and pre election alliances and performing well in Haryana. The fact is that since the loss in 2014, the Congress has been struggling to get control of the political narrative. It has perhaps got the same now. Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, former president of the party, Rahul Gandhi and his sister and AICC General Secretary UP Priyanka Gandhi are attacking PM Modi and CAA and NRC.

How the Opposition scripts its future strategy would be interesting to watch. The AAP has tied up with poll strategist Prashant Kishore. How baffled ruling party is can be understood from the recent statement of Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri who when asked to comment by media about AAP tie up with I-PAC of Prashant Kishor, said sarcastically “Who is Prashant Kishor”?

Of course it would be too early to drive at the conclusion that the Opposition has got the winning formula or even a narrative to take on the BJP because the race to win public perception could still be very long. It would also be interesting to watch how BJP counters Opposition strategy. The BJP is a cadre based political party and since 2014 it has expanded its base and has resources at its command.

Also will all Opposition parties come on a single platform to match perceptions on CAA and NRC? Unless all the Opposition parties burn differences and give even a semblance of unity, the battle would only be half won. The BJP has already launched its outreach to reach out to people to educate them about the CAA and NRC.

Maharashtra and Jharkhand election results show that the Congress is capable of showing flexibility and is prepared to go to any level to keep BJP out of power. Nobody could have thought of Congress joining hands with Shiv Sena.

In Jharkhand it agreed to be a second fiddle before Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. Both experiments show that Congress has that flexibility and practical approach. It is the maturity of Sonia Gandhi or survival instinct of Congress that was facing barbs of “Congress Mukt Bharat” from the BJP.

All this is working for Opposition and the BJP has been on the defensive but to arrive at a definite conclusion that the Opposition has got a shot in the arm and a winning formula would be too early to say. Similarly, it has got a powerful narrative in the form of anti-CAA and NRC agitations, but how BJP reaches out to masses to educate them would be watched with interest in near future. One safe take would be that the Opposition has clinched an issue courtesy CAA and NRC agitations to take on the BJP.