Ahead of the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the opposition has found a rallying point and an agenda to further its politics, with the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and Bharatiya Janata Party’s brazenness giving a much-needed fillip to the parties sitting out of power.
Much like Hathras and Sonbhadra, Lakhimpur has given them the boost they needed. But unfortunately for BJP’s rivals, they seem to have no agenda, vision or cohesive plan to offer voters. Criticising and protesting against the ruling dispensation is the right and duty of any opposition, but to only rely on that, use that as a crutch and not have any unique selling point is neither smart politics nor a clever electoral approach.
From Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi to Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party’ s Mayawati and Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Jayant Chaudhary, opposition leaders in the poll-bound state seem dependent on the Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath governments for their next ‘treat’. It’s almost as if the opposition is simply sitting around with no active thinking of its own and waiting for the next gift from the BJP that will prompt it into action.
Also read: This is how the BJP is looking to counter Opposition heat on Lakhimpur Kheri
The Lakhimpur ‘breather’
The killing of four farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri after being mowed down by a convoy allegedly belonging to Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra, has kept the situation in the state on the boil and the opposition on its toes. There have been some defining and fierce images in this crisis: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s spiritedly confronting the police and sweeping the floor of the guest house where she was detained, Deepender Hooda jostling with the cops, Jayant Chaudhary reaching the spot and Akhilesh Yadav roaring that BJP was presenting a “bouquet” to the culprits instead of arresting them.
All of these have had powerful political influence, with timely and pertinent interventions by the opposition, more defined thanks to the obstinate silence from the prime minister. The opposition latching on to this incident brings back memories of Sonbhadra and Hathras, where the Yogi government slipped and its rivals found an issue to pivot around. The Gandhis fought their way through to reach Hathras to meet the family of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who died a fortnight after she was allegedly raped by four men outside her village. Mayawati and Akhilesh too, left no stone unturned to be heard and ensured that they put the Yogi government on the backfoot. They were equally vocal and fiesty when 10 people were killed and several others injured in clashes over land ownership in the Sonbhadra district, besides being active during the CAA controversy as well as on the Yogi government’s questionable law and order record.
Also read: Lakhimpur Kheri is tipping point for Modi govt. Like Gandhi’s Chauri Chaura was for British
The episodic approach
Every opposition waits for the government to make a mistake and use it as a tool against it. But that has become the only strategy in the case of UP, and perhaps nation-wide at large.
It is as if the opposition is in a lazy trance, and wakes up strictly when the BJP messes up, only to go back to sleep. Anti-BJP-ism or anti-Modi-ism has become the sole weapon of some opposition parties, especially the Congress, and that is unlikely to be a potent one.
Voters want to see political parties offer a clear vision, a clean line of thinking and a coherent promise. The vote in 2014 was more in favour of Modi and his vision than against the 10 years of UPA rule.
The strategy of relying purely on the ruling party’s failures and whipping up sentiments against it works only when the incumbent has become extremely unpopular and the voter is longing to get rid of it, perhaps how it was in states like Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2018.
Unfortunately for BJP’s rivals, that stage is yet to arrive for the party or the prime minister, or even Yogi Adityanath for that matter. Jumping from one episode to another to mark your politics merely tells the voter that you are bereft of ideas and are relying solely on Modi’s BJP to give you opportunities to score a political point.
What happens with this approach is that the BJP becomes the sole agent in driving the agenda, even with its mistakes and missteps. The minute it decides to fix things, the Congress and others are left with nothing to fall back on, only to lie in wait for the next mistake.
The opposition in Uttar Pradesh has already found its voice, but with elections due in just a few months, it also needs to dig its own language and agenda.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)