Tuesday 18 Jun 2024

Will K'taka help build robust opposition?

Oppn parties have to learn to to with each other in these trying times

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho | MAY 13, 2023, 10:50 PM IST
Will K'taka help build robust opposition?

Karnataka has set in motion, the process of reclaiming our republic. The historic landslide  victory is more sweeter as the BJP has been trashed in almost all regions except the ‘Coastal laboratory of communalism’. The chant of ‘Bajrangbali’ did not get the required resonance even in the city area where the prime Minister had massive road shows. Particularly the poor and the young voters decided that enough was enough.   

The ruling party has managed to slide back the Indian democracy. Every annual global report on democracy, press freedom has downgraded India from it’s democracy status. The Sweden based V-dem has referred to the world’s largest democracy as ‘elected autocracy’ another world body referred to India as ‘flawed democracy’.  The Human Right Groups, press persons, social activists and minority groups have been intimidated into submission. Political opponents face the heat of ED, IB, CBI and IT, not permitting them to function in the opposition space. Few like D.K. Shivakumar and Sharad Pawar may have the tenacity to stand up to a vindictive government. Most fall in line making the ruling party look unbeatable. It is this attitude of the ruling party that has cast a showdown on the world image of our democracy. We always had robust institutions and well  established  democratic practices which seem to crumble amidst a authoritarian government that is not tolerable to any dissent. The world global ratings may have been questioned in India. The then Vice President Venkaiah Naidu did not allow questions in parliament. A few days back the foreign minister S. Jaishankar rejected the report on press freedom which down graded India to 161st position lower than 11 points from last year. 

The wisdom of the Kannadiga voters may be on issues involving price rise, unemployment, corruption and other local issues. It may be that the victory of the opposition Congress could be attributed to the popularity of the ex Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the organizational  skill of DK Shivakumar or the fact that both of them worked as a team. The victory is also attributed to the brilliant campaign revolving around the five guarantees and coverage of 80% of the households even before the polls were announced. But the victory the opposition in Karnataka is to be hailed for stopping the hegemony of the ruling BJP towards a authoritarian path. 

For a long time now it was thought that the popularity of the Prime Minister and the BJP organizational muscle would take them into 2024 without a fight.  The opposition Congress facing a resource crunch was seen as unable to stop their onward march of the 2024 elections. It is not that Karnataka state assembly elections mattered much for 2024 elections but it certainly provided a momentum to the opposition parties. In case Karnataka was lost, Telangana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh state elections this year were a foregone conclusion.   

Karnataka has also halted the crucial geographical expansion of the ruling party in the South and has set up a narrative that the ruling BJP can be challenged and in fact the ruling party is not invincible as made out to be. The fact that the road-shows in Bangalore did not bring much dividends shows that a good and sustained campaign can derail the ruling party which is rich in resources and has attempted to capture  the mind and imagination of the citizenry with a cocktail of religion and nationalism. 

It is against this background and the political hegemony that is portrayed through a pliable media controlled by the top business houses that the Karnataka elections have to be seen. Irrespective of the Kannadiga voters being very informed and wise, the civil society was up against the ruling party which attempted to wipe out any opposition. 

Without opposition, democracy is meaningless and there can never be accountability in a democracy without an opposition. The opposition parties facing the ruling BJP in other states and in particularly the States which go to polls this year gets a booster dose and a physiological advantage over the much touted invincibility of the ruling party. The Congress party which has been badly hit by electoral losses can get into a electoral contests as a robust party which can face the might of the ruling party in case they can manage their factions and a proper and sustained campaign.  Electoral success may be dependent on various factors but certainly it cannot be said that it does not even have a fighting chance.  A sweep in Karnataka was required to galvanize the opposition ranks and the progressive Southern state has provided that critical impetus. Even Chandrashekhar Rao of BRS will get some extra strength in fighting the BJP juggernaut. 

The split in the opposition votes always made it easy for the BJP, unless the opposition gets pushed to a far third place or pushed out like West Bengal. Karnataka also provides a lesson that in case our democracy has to survive, the opposition has to be robust and they have to learn to live with each other in these trying times. Karnataka has been critical in 2023 and it is only hoped that it helps the march of democracy in 2024.         

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