Not long after the BJP returned to power with a bigger majority than in 2014, the fissures in the opposition ranks began to surface. It first started with the BSP breaking ranks with the SP, an alliance in Uttar Pradesh that had promised much but delivered little in the Lok Sabha polls. Then began the resignation of Rajya Sabha members, starting with Nirmal Shekhar of the SP, to join the BJP.
A born socialist, the son of former PM Chandra Shekhar began what later turned out to be a flood, with at least nine Upper House elders defecting to join the BJP in over a month. And entire opposition legislature parties split down the middle and joined the saffron party. This was witnessed in Goa, where the majority of the Congress legislators defected. On Tuesday, it was the turn of the Sikkim Democratic Front, a party that was in power in the state for 25 years until it was unseated in May this year. Barring Pawan Kumar Chamling, the SDF’s leader, the rest of its MLAs have joined the BJP.
The gradual weakening of opposition parties is a matter of concern. While there is a need for a strong government at the Centre, especially when the country is facing a huge economic challenge, it is also a fact that a strong opposition is the need of the hour. To say that the opposition is fractured would be an understatement; it is in disarray. This was apparent in the Parliament session when many of them did not see eye to eye and voted differently on crucial bills.
For the opposition to remain united, there is perhaps a need for a generational change in all the parties, both national and regional. So entrenched are the old fogeys such as Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati that their egos always come in the way of putting up a united front. They would do well to remember that by 2024 when the next general elections are due, over 50% of India’s voters would be less than 25, with whom they have little in common and who are likely to reject them.