Friday 18 August 2017 News Updated at 10:08 AM IST
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Counter-narrative: A chimera or reality? - Deccan Herald
Counter-narrative: A chimera or reality?
Kay Benedict,
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The BJP's phenomenal growth and its alleged use of government machinery to undermine political rivals in the last three years may have thrown the Opposition into a tailspin and yet it is perplexing that the non-NDA parties do not look to be sufficiently alarmed. In the run up to the general elections, Narendra Modi's refrain (as BJP's PM candidate) was for a "Congress-free India" and he has nearly succeeded in decimating the Grand Old Party. As its unbridled greed for political power soars, the BJP has been crafting strategies to annex more and more states from regional satraps. In contrast, the Opposition, the Congress, in particular, is struggling to find a credible leader and a counter narrative to a "Modified" BJP.

Conversely, it is also possible that the BJP's tearing hurry to establish a single party or front hegemony could force the Opposition to swim together instead of sinking. The fact that almost all Opposition stalwarts are under the lens of investigating agencies could act as a unifying glue. The Rajya Sabha recently witnessed heightened coordination between the Opposition parties against vendetta politics, lynching, farm distress and the poor state of the economy.

Under Sonia Gandhi's direction, the Congress members in both houses mounted a concerted attack on the Modi government against "misuse of central agencies."

On Tuesday, the AICC launched the All India Professionals Congress (AIPC), first of its kind, to expand its support base among the middle and aspirational classes who are by and large ideology neutral. The AIPC, headed by the charismatic Shashi Tharoor, will have chapters across cities and each chapter will have a Women Empowerment Committee, Digital Literacy Committee, Financial Literacy Committee, Medical Aid Committee, Legal Aid Committee and Education Aid Committee.

Simultaneously, keeping the 'aam aadmi' in mind, the party constituted the "All India Unorganised Workers Congress" and plans are afoot to set up separate departments for overseas Indians and fishermen. Last month, Sonia constituted a Communication Strategy group comprising P Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and five others. Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda and Randeep Singh Surjewala are ex-officio members.

Recent events in Bihar and Gujarat have rattled the Congress prompting the party president to become proactive again.

As part of its efforts to effect wider Opposition unity, the Congress brass is in regular touch with regional satraps and Left leaders. Contours of an anti-BJP coalition are likely to be unveiled in Patna on August 27 when RJD chief Lalu Prasad kick-starts the "mega" Opposition rally with the call - 'BJP hatao, desh bachao' (Remove BJP, save the country).

The JD(U) founder and Rajya Sabha MP Sharad Yadav, who is upset with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for betraying the Grand Alliance, is said to be plotting to split the party to get even with Nitish and to enhance Opposition firepower. The veteran socialist, along with other party MPs, has been actively backing the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. the JD(U) units in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Nagaland may rally around Sharad Yadav.

He is planning to hold an Opposition conclave on August 17 when metrics of an alternative narrative to the BJP's "communal" and "anti-poor" policies will be discussed. All top Opposition leaders are expected to attend the meet, coming just two days before the official national conference of the JD(U) on August 19. However, there is a lurking suspicion in the Congress's mind as to why Sharad Yadav is prolonging his exit from the JD(U) and whether he will take the ideological battle to its logical conclusion.

Pre-empting allies

Nitish and the BJP are not sitting idle too. A source said they are working on a script to break the RJD and the Congress legislature parties in Bihar. The BJP's strategy has been to pre-empt potential alliances against it by a carrot and stick policy. To neutralise the impact of a possible Congress-SP-BSP gang-up in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP minders are wooing SP chief Mulayam Singh, his brother Shivpal Yadav and Amar Singh. And in Tamil Nadu, it is coercing the AIADMK faction leaders (even those facing corruption charges) to merge and join the NDA. NCP chief Sharad Pawar is also in Modi's radar. Soon after the jolt in Bihar, the Congress faced a mini revolt in Gujarat with six of its MLAs joining the BJP and its tallest leader Shankersinh Vaghela quitting the party.

Despite the sound and fury in the Opposition camp, what is baffling is that, barring the Congress, others do not seem to be worried over the looming existential threat as they continue to be gripped by trust deficiency and turf wars. The TMC and the CPM are at draggers drawn while the West Bengal Congress is miffed with the AICC for warming up to the TMC. The CPM has accentuated the confusion by ruling out any alliance with the Congress and regional parties.

"Why such a Grand Alliance is unworkable is the unreliable character of many of the regional parties. Most of the regional parties have embraced the neo-liberal policies and are prone to make opportunistic alliances," said an editorial in the CPM mouthpiece People's Democracy. It said the Congress is primarily responsible for the imposition of neo-liberal policies and "it stands discredited due to years of misrule and corruption." In the same breath, it concluded that instead of an alliance, an alternative programme is needed to build a "credible political alternative". How can a political alternative emerge without credible alliances? Is it the time for hair-splitting? Even in a small state like Kerala, despite being the ruling party, the CPM has not been able to match the BJP's Machiavellian politics. It has walked into the RSS trap by its knee-jerk response to the emerging BJP challenge.

(The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator)