By N S Venkataraman
With the impressive gains that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has achieved in the recent north-eastern state elections, the Modi government’s ardent admirers feel he is unstoppable and would win the 2019 parliament elections hands down.
With Modi now emerging as the sole and entire plank of the BJP and NDA government, the 2019 elections have to be fought by the country’s opposition parties against Modi as an individual. This implies that they have to find a person who can measure up to Modi in terms of long term vision, courage of conviction and strong personality, with a clean personal image, who impresses not only people in India but also the leadership of countries across the world.
Is there anyone in the opposition now visible enough to challenge Modi in 2019? Modi can be defeated only by a person who is better or on par with him.
The biggest advantage for Modi today is that Rahul Gandhi is being projected as his challenger in the 2019 election by the Congress party.
Rahul is a product of dynasty and happens to be what he is today only because he is a member of the Nehru family. There may be many people in the Congress party who are far better than Rahul as a politician and leader, but such persons can only be in the second line of leadership in this family-controlled party. By unquestioningly accepting the leadership of Rahul, every other leader in the Congress party inevitably looks smaller than him in a situation where he himself does not appear a leader par excellence.
Congressmen have reduced themselves to such a level that people sarcastically remark that if the Nehru family dynasts Rahul and Priyanka were to refuse to accept leadership positions in the party, Priyanka’s children, who are less than 15 years old, would be elected to head the Congress party!
In India today, most political parties are essentially regional parties confined to one state, with no influence beyond the state’s border. The only parties who can claim to be national parties are the BJP, the Congress and Marxist Communists.
With communist philosophy as a viable social and economic proposition collapsing all over the world and with China, which claims to be a communist country but is really more capitalist for all practical purposes, Communist parties are fast losing relevance worldwide. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Marxist party in India are still living in the past, in ivory towers.
The defeat of the Marxists in Tripura, where their leader Manik Sarkar is highly respected, only indicates that when they could not win elections with such a person as chief ministerial candidate, the writing is on the wall for the Marxists. The fact that the Communist party (Marxist) is still in power in Kerala does not mean much, as it is only a coalition government. Coalition partners are known to jump from one group to another depending on likely gains.
The reluctance of the opposition parties to accept Rahul as a common prime ministerial candidate to challenge Modi is understandable, given his image. The fact is that the opposition parties may be willing to accept someone else from the Congress, if the party can find a person strong enough to challenge Modi.
The ball is now in the Congress party’s court. The second line of leadership in the party should start asserting itself and demand a leader other than family representative Rahul, who has the charisma and vision to challenge Modi and who may be acceptable to other opposition parties.
The Congress party has to search inward and an honest search may enable it to arrive at a proper choice to challenge Modi.
(The author is with Nandini Voice of the Deprived. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)