The disastrous second wave of Covid-19 has, to say the least, highlighted what India lacks.
I’ve noted that we lack a leader who places his people before his elections, and I’ve clearly witnessed the harrowing lack of a robust health infrastructure. The lack of medical oxygen and life-saving drugs and the subsequent repercussions send shivers down my spine. I cannot fathom what it must feel to experience the lack of firewood at the funeral ghats.
In May, the average daily vaccination rate fell by half compared to April. So then there’s the lack of people who would have thought that drawing up a supply and demand sheet is a good idea when vaccinating a billion and a half people.
Yet, what was most lacking was a legitimate, strong, and credible political opposition.
“I’m happy to congratulate Mamata ji and the people of West Bengal for soundly defeating the BJP,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, the de facto leader of the Indian National Congress, congratulating his opponent following the West Bengal elections.
It was a true indication of political maturity but a tad bit disconcerting when your alliance with the Left Front got zero seats in West Bengal, a state that was ruled by the latter for 34 years.
Weak political opposition to BJP
The INC is the only party with a significant reach at the grassroots level and a national appeal to lead the opposition.
The DMK is confined to Tamil Nadu, just as the Trinamool Congress is to West Bengal and the National Congress Party in Maharashtra. The Biju Janata Dal and the Rashtriya Janata Dal seem to be content within Odisha and Bihar, respectively. Outside of Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party don’t have a similar appeal or at least what’s left of it, and the Aam Aadmi Party suffers when not in New Delhi.
This is where India’s political opposition currently stands.
I stumbled upon a post that read: “If not Modi then the 18-year-old Priya who is amplifying oxygen cylinder requests on her Instagram”.
Although that sounds great and I recall “liking” it, the question remains. The Congress’ response seems to be fixated on “not Modi,” to which we respond, “Very well, then Rahul Gandhi?” and their reply is “Not sure, but not Modi”.
The Congress repeatedly focuses on the BJP’s flaws while ignoring their strengths. On the off chance that they do, they appear to be living in a time warp 40 years ago. Not many of today’s voters connect to them.
I’ve voted twice in my life, in the 2019 general election and the 2019 Maharashtra assembly election and both times for the BJP.
In 2019, I was elated when the Lok Sabha opposition was reduced to an abysmal low but was also peeved when the Maharashtra Shiv Sena-BJP coalition fell through.
Over time, I’ve realised that this lack of a substantial political opposition has given the BJP a de facto free hand and bestowed upon them massive power that goes unchecked. The BJP is in its comfort zone. Instead of rational and logical reasoning, debates are increasingly directed by whataboutery and excessive emotions. This is seldom a hallmark of a healthy democracy.
The need of the hour is for a strong and united political opposition to provide an alternate ideology. Unfortunately, the Congress’s recent ideology of “we don’t hate anyone and believe in the power of love” may sound wonderful during Pride Month, but it doesn’t exactly cut it in the political scene.
People have inevitably taken a liking to the charismatic Modi’s powerful message of nationalism and national security, and in these areas, he appears to have delivered. Many people see the divisiveness, lack of accountability, and dwindling economy (which will now, in all probability, be blamed on Covid-19) as a cost worth paying.
“Opposition is important for a healthy democracy. Democracy cannot survive without opposition,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
The Opposition in India must buck up. The compelling necessity that we face today is of an Opposition with its own ideology, independent from that of its adversary.
For the past six months, Indian farmers have demonstrated to India, their resolve, their grit and their unity.
The road will be difficult and long, fraught with resentment between two political factions. To me, it makes little difference whether the UPA wins the elections in 2024, the NDA, or any other alliance. However, having a strong opposition, with a voice led by their own tenets, capable of keeping the party in power on their toes, changes everything.
Vedant Modi is a student of MIT World Peace University, Pune