New Delhi: The wheel has turned full circle in Indian politics. From “Congress Bhagao, Desh Bachao” (drive Congress out and save the country) slogans in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, now the opposition’s cry is “BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao” (drive BJP out and save the country).
Nearly three years since the Congress party faced a historic loss in general elections and subsequent drubbings in a number of state assembly elections, its loss has been ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s gain that analysts feel has become the new central pole of Indian politics.
The BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mounted a determined campaign against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) as the two parties battled it out in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Having been in power for a decade, the Congress-led Alliance was targeted by the BJP with slogans like “Congress Mukt Bharat”, and “Congress hatao”. Riding on a strong anti-incumbency wave, BJP’s campaign also saw the party attack Congress with slogans like “Janata maaf nahi karegi”, or the public won’t forgive.
Not much has changed for the BJP since it came to power in 2014 as the party’s campaigns in subsequent state elections continues to draw from its popular 2014 election slogans of “Ab ki baar Modi sarkar” (elect Modi government this time). Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also made headlines in 2015 when he attacked the BJP, calling it “suit boot ki sarkar” taking a jibe at Modi’s monogrammed suit.
The opposition rally led by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad in Patna on Sunday was symbolic in many ways as it was the first formal big rally against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government by key opposition parties, even as it exposed the elusive unity being sought by them.
Key absentees from the Sunday rally included Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati.
“Slogans of BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao end up being just rhetorical if the opposition takes no steps of mobilising on the ground. Lalu Prasad’s rally, even though it had an impressive turnout, ended up sending mixed signals about opposition unity,” a senior Congress leader said, requesting anonymity.
Many within the opposition feel that merely an anti-BJP stance will not be enough and there is a need to come up with an alternative agenda. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar too had pointed this out days before he broke ranks with the opposition to join the NDA last month.
With the BJP becoming the common foe of all opposition parties, the road to 2019 is clearly in sight for at least some of them. For instance, Mayawati in the run-up to Lalu Prasad’s rally on Sunday made it clear that she would not attend it unless there is clarity on seat sharing for the next general elections.