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Prashant Kishor’s prediction about BJP is bang on. India’s opposition has a lot to do with it

They say 'who needs enemies when you have friends like these'. For the BJP, who needs friends when you have enemies like these?

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Poll strategist Prashant Kishor is right. The Bharatiya Janata Party will remain powerful for decades. But not because of Narendra Modi’s legacy or Amit Shah’s organisational and electoral management, but because there seems to be no real challenge to it. So if the BJP does indeed continue its iron grip over Indian politics, it can well thank the opposition.

As the BJP, under Modi and Shah, first established and began to tighten its grip over national politics 2014 onwards, the opposition too simultaneously abetted their rise, leaving the ground unchallenged. There are only two alternatives that can bring a tentacled, and now immensely popular, party like the BJP down — a strong and equally compelling pan-India party or a united opposition with a cohesive and saleable vision.

Neither of the two seem to be on the anvil. While the only other truly national party — Congress — is busy fighting its own demons, the other opposition players are way too occupied trying to dislodge each other than forge a united front ahead of 2024.

Also read: Amit Shah is wrong. Modi’s re-election doesn’t depend on Adityanath’s 2022 win

A stronger BJP under Modi-Shah…

Support after the Mandir movement and Vajpayee’s six-year term surely count as the BJP’s milestones but in Modi-Shah era, the party has made huge strides, emerging as the only powerful national party. It’s true it has tasted failure in states like Delhi and West Bengal, where popular regional leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee got the better of it. It’s also true that the BJP’s expansion in the southern region of the country has been limited. But Modi and Shah have ensured the party becomes a national force to reckon with, even if it remains the weaker party in some states. Just look at the 2019 Lok Sabha numbers in Delhi and West Bengal, the two states where the BJP lost the subsequent assembly polls, and you’ll know how, irrespective of its performance in states, the party has truly established itself a national one.

What has made the BJP so powerful and victorious is a matter of greater academic research and debate. As someone who has covered elections, I would say it’s a blend of Modi’s unprecedented popularity and power of messaging, his government’s welfare push, some smart election and voter management and, of course, the party’s success in normalising its parochial version of Hindutva and popularising its majoritarian language.

Also read: How RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat dusted off a 6-year-old document to set new agenda for Modi govt

…and why it will remain so

Prashant Kishor’s prediction may not be wrong. He believes a party that has secured 30 per cent of the vote share isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. The BJP has entrenched itself too deeply in national politics to be dislodged easily. To add to that, it has a well-spread and disciplined organisational structure, a very useful RSS cadre and a popular leader at its helm.

But this isn’t just about Modi or present-day BJP. It’s also about how promising (or not) the opposition looks. Modi will not be the BJP’s face forever, and 2024 in all likelihood will be his last Lok Sabha polls as the PM. There is no clarity on who will succeed him and whether she/he will be as effective a leader. Despite this, if it seems the BJP will continue to remain a powerful force, it is because there is no real challenger in the picture even after seven years.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s impending return as president is a win-win for both Congress and BJP

Modi-Shah alone not responsible for BJP’s rise

Since there is no single force, the only other option is a combined opposition with a clear vision and binding factor. Unfortunately, for BJP’s rivals, this seems like a long shot. There are way too many contradictions within the opposition for it to come together cohesively.

Look at what’s happening now. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are at each other’s throats, with the BSP alleging SP’s collusion with the BJP, following Akhilesh Yadav’s Jinnah comments. The Congress and the Trinamool Congress are fighting in West Bengal and Goa. The TMC and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are competing to be the outsiders who will make inroads in Goa. The AAP and Congress don’t particularly like each other. The Biju Janata Dal and Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress often remain neutral and cautious, as does the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, and these parties have, in fact, helped the BJP in Parliament in the past. Essentially, nobody likes or trusts anybody in the opposition camp, no matter how often they share the dais to hold hands and display a show of strength against the BJP.

Besides the fact that the opposition is deeply splintered, it also lacks that one face or idea with which it can take the BJP on.

Essentially, the BJP is in a comfortable spot for years to come, and a lot of credit for that goes to a lifeless, directionless and vision-less national opposition. They say ‘who needs enemies when you have friends like these’. For the BJP, who needs friends when you have enemies like these?

Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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