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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 11 MARCH, 2017

PM Modi Races Towards 2019 With No Obstacles in Sight: Part 2 - The Opposition


NEW DELHI: The Opposition to the BJP in UP has slumped into non-existence. And while there might be some introspection, the real reasons for this decimation might be glossed over under the pressure of Dynasty and inner-party wrangling to a point where the non-BJP parties will enter the 2019 elections with the same delusions and disarray.

The first delusion that affected the Samajwadi party-Congress alliance in UP perhaps more than any others was that Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav together could counter PM Modi’s personality cult. While that is not an impossible, it certainly cannot be done without the kind of intense work that follows the Prime Minister before, during, and after the campaign. A house to house effort, where planning is strategised, and strategy constantly assessed and changed according to feedback from the ground.

The Samajwadi party has more organisation on the ground than many others, but in the case of UP this took a direct hit because of the battle between father and son. And even though the party decided to walk with Akhilesh Yadav, the absence of Samajwadi strategist Mulayam Singh who knows the state better than all others was felt in the final analysis. Also, in politics that defines the non-BJP parties Mulayam Singh did not campaign for his son, in fact campaigned against him. And his brother Shivpal Yadav actually approached party members and voters urging them not to support Akhilesh Yadav.

Instead of countering this through a more ground level approach, Akhilesh Yadav swayed by so called election strategist Prashant Kishor and the Congress, spent more time on a personality based campaign, with no second or third in command effective enough to manage the party at the grassroots. Except for the candidates there was no one in charge to handle the campaign, plan and strategise on a daily and at times hourly basis as was the case with the BJP.

This was not just during the campaign but over the past years, more so since 2013 after the Muzaffarnagar violence when the BJP intensified its work in UP, and the SP did not. Akhilesh Yadav did spend the last years in development and while all across UP, the voters openly appreciated this, clearly the vote could not be managed by him and the party. More so as there was no work done at the grassroots level to extend the appeal to the OBCs and the Jats, and to counter the BJP through sustained effort.

The Congress party is in shambles in UP. it does not exist, and it is time that Rahul Gandhi realises that he cannot project himself as the counter to PM Modi through roadshows and by simply projecting himself as the alternative. The party, at the time of writing this, was leading only in 12 seats in UP. Numbers that speak volumes.

Alternatives are created on the ground. And ground work is done by strong, democratic, responsive organisations. For this there has to be work on the ground, along with a leadership that is credible and effective. The Congress has neither the organisation, nor the vote, and now as it has demonstrated neither the ability to create a party that works and delivers.

The Congress won Punjab but only because it has a leader in Amarinder Singh---who is not popular with Delhi and has been dealt with roughly in the past---who knows the state, and had the ability to revive the party, and touch the nerve centres as it were. Singh was seen as more credible than AAP’s Kejriwal for instance who remained an ‘outsider’ because of several campaign mistakes, and his inability to project an acceptable local leader for the top post. Kerjriwal too tried to do a Brand Modi, and failed as he does not have a party, and a RSS to back his efforts even on a small state level election. Perhaps Amarinder Singh had a point when he said at his press conference just after the victory about Kejriwal, “he is a summer storm, he came and he went.”

Kejriwal will have to stop being a man in a hurry and first create an organisation on issues that have to be wider than just anti-corruption. Far from winning, AAP has not won a single seat in Goa. It is almost certain that Gujarat insofar as he is concerned will have to take a back seat, with the mantle of the Opposition in that state that goes to the polls at the end of the year remaining with the Congress party. That it has not even picked up the gauntlet, and seems to be in no position to do so, is daunting.

PM Modi is the face of intense hard work, and not the other way around. His social media, media work is a big add on to a bouquet that includes development but laced heavily at all ends with communalism. His is not just a ‘hawa’ but a painstakingly created ‘hawa’ where the end justifies the means. For instance, the PM if required ignored all criticism to spend three full days in Varanasi, sewing together the various looseends that had emerged in his Lok Sabha constituency. And worked day and night to do so, following Shah’s advise with the two making a formidable team.

Mayawati was the only non-BJP leader who worked in the field before the elections, but unfortunately her style is too authoritarian and too personalised to merit a good feed back. Her style of functioning is outdated and isolationist, that does not work in this age where the voter is looking for connectivity with the leader at all levels. Her flip flop politics of the past also worked for her in the field, with the non Jatav voter finding it difficult to identify with her, leaving the BSP at the bottom end of the scale.

The Left’s contribution to these elections was to field candidates that no one heard of or from, parallel to the Alliance and BSP in UP for instance. The communist parties have been marginalised in national politics like never before.

It is clear too that while the BJP being a cadre based party can manage dissidence---as shown in Varanasi-- and bring it together the opposing parties do not have that ability. Akhilesh Yadav will face revived dissidence in the SP now in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. AAP will have to introspect and democratise if it is to survive, and clearly its expansion plans have taken a beating with the Punjab results. Mayawati has to actually effect an image and party make over, a task that seems impossible where her own abilities are concerned.

It is time that Rahul Gandhi turns into a serious politician reposing more faith in the party than in himself. He has to realise that there can be no substitute for a democratic, strong, responsive organisation as a personality at this point cannot match and beat that of PM Modi who is far ahead of all other leaders in the Opposition.

(Read also: http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/1/10137/PM-Modi-Races-Towards-2019-With-No-Obstacles-in-Sight-Part-1The-UP-Vote)

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