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Opposition needs to have an electoral game plan. Criticism of Modi is not enough

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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Non-BJP politicians couch their opposition to the BJP in their criticism of Narendra Modi and his policies. When asked about what policies they would implement if they were in power, they keep silent. It’s one of the key rules of politics that you should have something to stand for, without which people won’t vote for you. Let’s accept the fact that Narendra Modi is extremely bad for the long-term good of our nation. But if he is so bad, why can’t you oppose him? Why have you allowed him to destroy the nation while you have stood by as a silent spectator? You can of course make the argument that the BJP has superior economic resources at its disposal, and also has the ability to silence anti-government critics. But then again, why are corporates unwilling to bet on you?

The vast majority of Indians don’t vote for the BJP because they consider it to be a hateful and divisive force. However, that hatred for the BJP isn’t enough to convert into votes for the Opposition. Opposition parties are much more likely to gain votes if they run a campaign which is positive and future-oriented.

If Arvind Kejriwal hadn’t run the 2020 Delhi elections on the twin-planks of education and health, would he have been able to retain power in spite of the fact that the BJP ran a purely hate-filled campaign? Unemployment in the nation is the highest it has been in 45 years. People are unable to afford basic commodities because of inflation. Our economic growth has plummeted because of hair-brained policies such as demonetisation and GST. Farmer suicides keep rising over time. Why have Opposition parties been unable to convert this anger into a sustained large-scale mass movement?

The Indian voter knows that inflation and a falling GDP are bad, but have you given them an answer on how you propose to solve these issues? Unless you do, do you really expect them to vote for you? At the end of the day, it is the economic issues which really matter to the people. If there was a well-run campaign around these issues, it would certainly dent the BJP’s electoral prospects.

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Another pre-requisite to defeating the BJP is the emergence of a strong secular-minded leader. No Opposition leader raises their voice when Muslims are indiscriminately targeted by the State. They feel that it will anger Hindus, whose votes they will lose in the next elections. The problem with this thought process is that there is no evidence to document it. It is only because the media has overhyped this issue that politicians don’t speak up about maintaining communal harmony.

If we consider ourselves a secular and democratic Republic, we require someone to stand up for the ideals of religious tolerance and pluralism. The only reason that our nation has achieved exponential progress for several decades is because we have more or less tried to treat all our citizens equally.

Opposing the BJP means not only presenting an alternative economic vision but also an alternative secular vision to the voters. The BJP constantly focuses on the double standards of Opposition parties when it comes to promoting secularism. It is time to turn that argument on its face by having an Opposition politician who actually stands for secular ideals and markets them to the masses accordingly.

In the clash between secular ideals which are liberal and inclusive, and the narrow-mindedness and bigotry of the BJP and the RSS, secular ideals inevitably win because a majority of Indians respect the diversity of this great nation and understand that getting along with each other is better for our long-term growth. We just need someone who has the courage to stand up for this principle, and put it before the masses.

Opposition parties feel that the politics of identity outweighs the economic issues at hand, that is why they try to emulate the BJP instead of opposing it. But in this process, you only end up becoming a watered-down version of the BJP, and so again people don’t vote for you.

In countries such as the UK, there is a Shadow Cabinet in which Opposition MPs with expertise in a particular field scrutinise every policy of the government whether it be related to the economy, information technology, national security, or foreign policy. Instead of just criticising the government blindly, the Shadow Cabinet would offer constructive criticism which would be a much more effective method of countering the government rather than disrupting Parliament during every session. Such an initiative sends out the message that there is an alternative set of leaders ready to assume power.
A strong-minded and secular leader vs Narendra Modi and his ideology of Hindutva, that’s the electoral battle this country needs today.

The author is a student at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Views are personal

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