Presidential Election 2017: Is there an opposition unity against the ruling BJP-led NDA in India? For last several months, the notion of such unity is being floated. But when it comes to actual show of strength, we have no option but to believe that opposition unity is as big a myth as the claim that India is facing an undeclared emergency under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Take the case of the upcoming Presidential Election. Before the BJP announced the name of its Presidential pick Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh Ram Nath Kovind, opposition leaders participated in several rounds of meeting to select their joint candidate for the poll. The opposition believed that BJP would announce the name of some hardcore Hindutva leader, like LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, from the RSS fold, giving them a fresh opportunity to take on the Centre. However, the opposition has not only failed to declare their candidate until now, but their so-called unity fell flat as soon as BJP picked a leader with a long affiliation to RSS but a low-key one, and more importantly a Dalit face serving as the Governor of Bihar.
Political experts hailed the BJP decision as a masterstroke. The Centre was under attack from the opposition after recent Saharanpur violence for allegedly being anti-Dalit and also for introducing cattle trade rules. But when BJP played back the Dalit politics to them by chosing Kovind and ignoring all other big names in circulation for the post, the opposition appeared clueless to tackle this surprise.
The first blow to the opposition unity came when Bihar CM Nitish Kumar heaped praise on Kovind. It was followed by appreciation from Dalit leader Mayawati, BJD chief Naveen Patnaik and eventually BJP ally Shiv Sena, which was threatening to break the ranks and play the opposition.
What is more surprising is the fact that opposition not even look in a mood to give a fight to the BJP in the Presidential election. Interestingly, the so-called opposition unity doesn’t even feature Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is ruling Delhi and playing the role of major opposition party in Punjab.
It is not surprising now that Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) has decided to vote for Kovind.
A similar myth of opposition unity was circulated after PM Modi had announced demonetisation on November 8, 2016. But then also, leaders like Kumar and Patnaik supported Modi’s move.
A united opposition will always be good against an all-powerful government. But the opposition needs to do a lot to succesully sell the idea of their unity.