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    View | Opposition pick Margaret Alva for Vice-President but fail to send out any electoral message

    View | Opposition pick Margaret Alva for Vice-President but fail to send out any electoral message

    View | Opposition pick Margaret Alva for Vice-President but fail to send out any electoral message
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    By Vikas Pathak   IST (Updated)

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    If the BJP sees key posts, like that of President, Vice-President or nominated members of the Rajya Sabha, as opportunities to reach out to various electoral constituencies, the Opposition seems to be seeing them in a conventional manner: any person with a past administrative record should be chosen for these largely 'ceremonial' posts.

    The opposition's choice of Margaret Alva as its Vice-Presidential candidate to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) candidate Jagdeep Dhankar is a textbook case of the inability to understand the politics of symbolism perfected by the BJP under Narendra Modi.
    Ironically, the Congress is among the 17 opposition parties supporting Alva, a Congress leader, a year before polls in Rajasthan. Dhankar comes from the influential Jat community in the state.
    If the BJP sees key posts, like that of President, Vice-President or nominated members of the Rajya Sabha, as opportunities to reach out to various electoral constituencies, the Opposition seems to be seeing them in a conventional manner: any person with a past administrative record should be chosen for these largely 'ceremonial' posts.
    The choice of Yashwant Sinha to take on Droupadi Murmu was one such instance. While the BJP made a powerful tribal pitch aimed at tribes in general and tribes of the eastern states in particular, the opposition fielded a former minister of Atal Behari Vajpayee and a former IAS officer who is a Kayastha, an educated general category caste that does not have a high population in any state. The candidate ticked no specific box, and opposition parties soon began to develop second thoughts about supporting him.
    In fielding Dhankar, the BJP made a pointed gesture to the Jats of north-western India, who were the prime protestors against the three farm laws that Modi repealed before the Uttar Pradesh polls. Dhankar is a Jat from Rajasthan, a state that goes to the polls in 2023 and has an influential Jat population. Instead of deciding not to field a candidate — or thinking in a nuanced manner while choosing one — the opposition seems to have successfully reversed any gains it may have made among the Hindu Jats of Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the last one year or two.
    Margaret Alva, the candidate chosen by them, does not help the opposition in the game of symbolism one bit. She is a former minister and governor, and comes from a Catholic Christian family of Mangalore in Karnataka. So, the opposition seems to be chasing votes that are already with it. It hasn't been able to checkmate the BJP by fielding candidates in a way that can dent the BJP's base.
    In the game of posturing, the BJP will soon be able to claim that it has given an OBC Prime Minister and Vice-President, and a tribal President. With upper castes firmly with it in northern, central and western India, this symbolism makes dents in vote bases that were not with the party a decade back.
    The decision of the opposition to field a candidate against a Jat from Rajasthan just a year before the state goes to the polls is nothing short of political hara-kiri. The Rajputs, Brahmins and Baniyas already vote for the BJP in Rajasthan. If Jats — who are split between the BJP and Congress — shift en bloc towards the BJP, the party will win by a comfortable margin.
    It is ironic that despite clear indications that the BJP is using nominations to key posts as a means of electoral outreach — all four Rajya Sabha nominees announced recently were from South India, and the list includes Ilayaraaja, a renowned music composer who is also a Dalit from Tamil Nadu — opposition parties have been unable to respond with a similar strategy to dent the BJP's expanding vote base across regions and castes.
    With the opposition planning its moves with eyes wide shut, the BJP seems to be getting a walkover each time.
    —The author Vikas Pathak is a columnist and media educator. The views expressed here are personal. 
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