Continuity & change

Post-Election Politics

By Dr S Saraswathi
(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

Prime Minister Modi has started his ambitious mission to achieve sab ka vishwas (trust of all) with a sound advice to the Opposition members in Parliament that they need not worry about their number and that every word they speak is important. His conciliatory remarks at the beginning of the new Lok Sabha urging for total efforts for a nishpaksh (non-partisan) approach to issues of public welfare and the larger interests of the nation is exactly opposite to the prevailing mood in Parliament. It is difficult to make the Opposition members believe, whoever they may be, that an active and effective Opposition is a necessity in a democracy when their sole aim is to capture the seat of the government.
The advice reflects an old democratic belief that even a hopeless minority of one could come out with valuable suggestions in legislations and governance. It applies where that minority has positive mindset.
With a decisive verdict given by the electorate, suspense politics of the past several months that pervaded all kinds of activities has ended yielding place to post-verdict, non-electoral politics. It is normal to expect that all participants in the electoral contest would have learnt many lessons from personal experiences and observations and actions of others that would help them to perform better in future. Of course, it is subject to the will and capacity of the learners and their sincerity in playing the democratic game democratically.
It is reasonable to expect that the winner(s) in the election would continue their technique of expanding and strengthening their support base while the losers would try to identify their mistakes and change their strategies.
Post-election politics that immediately follows an election has not been receiving as much public attention as pre-election politics particularly when the verdict is clear. Hung Parliaments and hung Assemblies are watched with keen interest to see how the waves move. Such movements happen in the aftermath of decisive mandate also. The object cannot be to topple a government that is numerically irremovable by arithmetical moves, but to obstruct and delay decisions and discredit the government so as to overturn the popularity of the ruling party.
Frequent elections under the present system as opposed to “simultaneous” elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies under consideration which carries fixed term give more scope for altering the fortunes of parties. Party politics is kept alive and active in such a manner that pre-election and post-election politics do not vary much in bitterness between rivals.
Modi’s seemingly friendly approach to Opposition parties is a good beginning provided it is received with friendly response. The phrase sab ka vishwas (trust of all), which he added to the earlier motto sab ka sath, sab ka vikas summarises his post-election mood reflecting political sagacity. There can be no objection to this, but only expressions of disbelief from staunch political opponents.
Participation of people in governance (jan bhagidari) and people’s awareness (jan chetna) are set as the aims to be achieved in the next five years along with raising the image of India globally.
The big pro-incumbency victory is taken by the BJP as a mandate to accelerate development, make governance less intrusive, implement NRC in areas affected by infiltration, and push for the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill and has been proclaimed through the President’s address. Government’s priority and the main goal is to strive to make people sufficiently empowered to carry on their daily life.
To focus attention on key challenges for economy – slow growth and unemployment – raised in election campaigns of opposition parties, two Cabinet committees – one to deal with investment and growth and another with employment and skill development have been set up.
The BJP through the rise and fall of regional parties must have realized their importance in national politics in the 2019 General election. It has been reiterating that no goal can be achieved if the States and the Centre do not work together in cohesion. The same lesson seems to have been understood by some of its main opponents that the best way to oppose the ruling party is unlimited non-cooperation.
Post-election violence erupted in clashes between Trinamool workers and BJP. Police had to fire that resulted in the death of two persons. Continuing inter-party clashes in West Bengal coupled with abusive language speaks volumes on the state of democracy, federalism, and popular elections developing in India.
The biggest impact of the defeat is the announcement of Congress President Rahul Gandhi to quit the post of party President leaving it to the organisation to find a successor. As he is till now firm on his decision, the face of the Opposition is going to change which in the absence of a proxy for Rahul Gandhi will introduce changes in the role and/or style of functioning of the Opposition. Though the resignation of the party chief is not unusual in a situation such as that faced by the Congress today, it makes world news when it happens in the Congress. Leadership crisis continuing for over a month in this party, one may be tempted to comment that the AIADMK has fared better by adopting dual leadership as temporary arrangement.
The uncertainty is impacting State Congress units and will immediately affect Haryana, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra where organisational preparations for Assembly elections due this year have to be made. The uncertainty will also affect local alliance relationships and reopen same old pre-poll party politics.
Total defeat has deepened dissensions in some State units of the Congress. Blame game started and infighting became vigorous in Rajasthan and Karnataka, A faction views this phase as the ripe time for change of guard. Telangana is witnessing defection of Congress MLAs to TRS which is on the ascendancy. Four TDP Rajya Sabha members joined the BJP reducing TDP number to two. The AICC also decided to reconstitute the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee.
Rumours afloat about “misleading” data given by the Data Department of the party on poll prospects and trends in elections. It is for the party to probe into the matter. If there is any truth about possibilities to break into the inner circle of any party, it is organisational weakness and must be rectified.
Defeat led to the end of BSP-SP Mahagathbandhan, a failed experiment, and with it weakened OBC-Dalit attempted coalition. BJP’s strategy in choosing candidates proved the futility of playing exclusively caste identity politics in the quest for “vikas”. Still, BSP chief has not closed the doors permanently to SP.
Within the DMK, which is keen on coming to power without election, open expression of displeasure with continuing alliance with the Congress is heard. The TNCC has also a section within it not happy with the alliance. The question who will benefit from this alliance bothers the DMK more than the Congress.
Opposition parties have already resorted to the politics of showing their opposition by non-participation in meetings. All-party meeting to discuss “One Nation, One Poll” and even NITI Aayog meeting to discuss financial matters were not attended by many Opposition parties. Post-electoral politics of continuity and change within and between parties is creating a fluid situation.— INFA