For Indian political parties “Democracy is in danger” is a very popular slogan these days. Honesty speaking, they’re absolutely right. India as a parliamentary democracy is facing a very unique challenge – there is no credible opposition.
After 2014 General Elections, BJP is on a roll winning Assembly elections after elections. Popular joke doing rounds on WhatsApp is “if BJP continues at this rate, high school student council would have BJP members!”. Since 2014, there have been around 15 assembly elections and BJP with its allies has won 10. Losses are as follows –
• In Delhi when AAP won 67 of 70 seats. This was unprecedented and a “wave” election.
• Technically BJP lost Bihar when arch rivals Nitish Kumar of JDU joined hands with RJD and Lalu Prasad Yadav. But this marriage of convenience didn’t last long. Both these parties have now separated, JDU has joined hands with BJP and is in power and RJD is in opposition.
• Another loss was in Punjab where Congress party under leadership of Captain Singh won. In this case, BJP was junior partner in alliance with regional party, so one could argue this is not really BJP’s loss.
• 2 other losses came in left bastion of West Bengal and Kerala. In both states one could argue BJP is not big enough player to challenge incumbent.
In India’s political arena there are lot of small regional parties who have presence in their home state. But at national level, on their own they don’t have huge influence. To exert their influence, these parties routinely float idea of “3rd front” a non BJP and non Congress alliance. Some of these regional parties like Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), JDU and Shiv Sena (SS) are part of BJP’s NDA alliance. Others like BSP, SP, TRS, Trinamul Congress (TMC), RJD, JDS, TDP, BJD, NCP, National Conference (NC) and DMK are not part of NDA.
Apart from confined to a region like state, there is one additional factor that’s common across these parties. These are all based on a political dynasty. Some of older parties like NC, TDP and SS have 3rd generation in politics. In other cases like TRS, NCP, PDP, BJD, DMK, SP, TDP, JDS, RJD or SAD have their 2nd generation in political corridors. In a way; JDU, TMC, AIADMK and BSP don’t have powerful dynasty yet. How these parties would function in future remains to be seen.
Off course India is not the only country where there is a dynasty in politics. In American politics there are dynasties too. In Republican party, Bush family is there. On Democratic side, Clinton and Pelosi family is there. But in both cases, there are other candidates who have flourished and have outperformed families / dynasties.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case in India. Most of the time, family = party Qdidn’t have any positive impact on party’s fortune. Karnataka assembly election was litmus test of his ability. Sadly for Congress, he couldn’t deliver.
At National level, both Left Parties CPI and CPM very marginalized. They’re left with very little presence. After India’s economy opened up in 1991, middle class base seen exponential rise. This expansion of middle class has overlapped with diminishing fortune of CPI and CPM. This tells it’s own fascinating story.
Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP had offered some hope. But over last 3 years, they have drifted and are all over the place. Fear within political pundits is, AAP may become a regional party confined to Delhi and NCR.
One good thing about BJP is they’ve not muted dissenting voices. At times, likes of Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Shatrughan Sinha and L K Advani have done better job than opposition by questioning Prime Minister Modi and BJP. To it’s credit BJP has not taken “disciplinary” action against them.
For any democracy to function a strong opposition is a must. Right now, there is no credible, proven and capable alternative to take on Prime Minister Modi in next year’s General Election. India’s democracy is looking for strong opposition (preferably without dynasty). Only time would tell if and when this void gets filled…
Planning a coup is important but execution is more important