‘Coalition of opposition parties possible to take on BJP’

Maharashtra experiment showed that parties with diverse ideologies can come together, say speakers at meet

July 10, 2021 10:16 pm | Updated 10:17 pm IST - Hyderabad

Coalition of opposition parties irrespective of diverse ideologies was possible to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian democracy is replete with successful coalition governments, but this would be possible only if they place a convincing alternative to the present regime.

This was the consensus among the representatives of three opposition parties at a session on ‘Does India lack an effective Opposition’, organised as a part of the Indian School of Business (ISB) Leadership Summit here. Parliament members Asaduddin Owaisi from AIMIM, Manish Tewari from the Congress, Priyanka Chaturvedi from the Shiv Sena and Sanjaya Baru, former Media Advisor to late Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao projected the danger of diminishing democracy in India but also presented the hope of opposition parties coming together in the near future.

Mr. Tewari, former Union Minister, said the powerful presence of the BJP will diminish as it was proved in the recent elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. India has seen successful coalition governments from 1991 to 2004 under different Prime Ministers. Ms. Priyanka Chaturvedi also chipped in giving the example of Maharashtra experiment where three ideologically different parties were successfully running the government with a common minimum programme.

Controversial laws

However, Mr. Owaisi argued that opposition parties must present an alternative ideology to the BJP’s ideology to win people’s confidence. As long as secular parties also toe the line of Hindutva, people will not believe in them. Some parties have openly or discreetly supported all the controversial laws brought in by the BJP and how can people believe them to be different, he asked.

Mr. Sanjaya Baru found fault with in the Opposition not presenting a counter to the narrative being set by the present government. He recalled that during the Nehru period Congress was much stronger as a party and the government, but the Opposition then was always effective in presenting its argument. But the present opposition parties perhaps lack the ideological clarity but yet there was an opportunity even now. He also recalled how from 1990 to 2014 there was consensual politics in India under P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.

The Shiv Sena MP, Ms Chaturvedi argued that equal representation of political parties among the Opposition was the need of the hour since Congress was no longer a stronger party. So all the others will demand better share and there should be a possibility of other parties leading the opposition coalition. She said the Maharashtra experiment showed that BJP can be pushed back by a strong opposition coalition.

Mr Tiwari said coalitions have matured in India since 1996 recalling how P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh governments pushed most contentious laws to unshackle the economy in coalition governments. Atal Behari Vajpayee also could put through a coalition that lasted six years.

Time to act

Mr. Sanjaya Baru warned that young citizens have to worry about the onslaught on the Indian Constitution in the last seven years and said the very survival of India as a democracy would be in danger. Mr Tewari said if young people love liberty and freedom it was time to stand up and be counted. In a year or two down the line it may be too late.

Ms. Chaturvedi also concurred with the thoughts and said democracy is made non-functional by the present government using the same tools. “Ten years down the line we don’t know whether India would remain a democracy,” she felt adding that lack of coherence in the Opposition must end.

The fears of a presidential system in India was ruled out by Mr. Sanjaya Baru as he said it was impossible in India given its diversity. He reminded that India was a union of States and the Government in Delhi should be seen as accommodating all. Excessive centralisation and the fear that two Gujaratis running the government is being felt and other States will start questioning the incentive for remaining in the Indian Union, he argued.

In reply to a question on family rule in Indian politics, Mr. Tewari agreed that political parties had this feudalistic nature and this was not confined to just India but across South Asian culture. But he felt in a decade there will be more democratisation of political parties with pressures from across sections.

Mr. Owaisi rued the low representation of Muslims in the Parliament and attributed it to Indians not voting for Muslim candidates due to Hindutva ideology dominating all the parties.

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