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    View: Wither opposition? Akhilesh Yadav decision indicates a long haul

    View: Wither opposition? Akhilesh Yadav decision indicates a long haul

    View: Wither opposition? Akhilesh Yadav decision indicates a long haul
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    By KV Prasad   IST (Published)

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    At a time when the opposition appears on a weaker wicket, the decision of Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav to stay put in the state and play the role across the aisle with responsibility indicates there is no other way than to work and regain the confidence of the people. The road ahead is long and SP can hope to rework its strategy as its leader assumes across the aisle responsibility after experience of five years in office.

    The electoral success struck by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the recent elections in four of the five states once again underscores the inability of parties in the opposition to mount a challenge to the party in government at the Centre and several states. The BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is undoubtedly one of the most potent political parties in the country today with registered presence across the country, in terms of presence in the assemblies or on terra firma in states including down south.
    Barring Punjab, assembly election results from the four states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur with a diverse terrain offers varying interpretation. Despite reduced presence in each of these four states, principal parties opposed to the BJP did manage to garner public support. Yes, certainly not enough to convert the vote share into more seats in the legislative assemblies and govern these states.
    Interestingly, an observation this week by a senior BJP leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on the need for the Congress to emerge stronger did not go unnoticed. The Minister who was once the party chief insisted that a good opposition is imperative for the health of democracy in the country. Now, there can be multiple interpretations of that statement in the backdrop of the BJP's aim of a "Congress-Mukt Bharat". Analysis by political pundits of the remark, notwithstanding, voice of the opposition is an inbuilt check and balance visualised in a parliamentary democracy. This remained relevant even when the BJP had a couple of seats in Parliament four decades ago.
    Current political landscape in the country remains diverse. The BJP has a dominating presence in the majority of the Hindi-speaking states and western region and a fair share in the Northeast. South India is comparatively weaker but the party is working on a plan to open up more space in states like Terengganu and Andhra Pradesh.
    The Congress, on its part, appears weak either to correct the course in its unmistakable ideological drift and check steady erosion in the rank and files. This invariably gives rise to a crop of regional parties, some of whom with umbilical cord attached to the Grand Old Party. As the country prepares to enter the home stretch ahead of the 2024 general elections, there is a resurgence of regional political outfits on the horizon and many are seeking to expand influence beyond existing areas of domination.
    Victory of the nascent Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab rekindled hope among such parties that a cogent strategy, backed by sustained work on the ground, offering role-model governance model and a forceful campaign weaving an impressive narrative can create conditions to challenge the existing order. In the case of Punjab, the principal challenge was to the Congress. The party spent the last five years as the principal party in the opposition and despite being hemmed by infighting and sharp differences; the AAP was the overwhelming favourite this time.
    Of course, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge blamed regional parties of weakening the opposition by contesting in states where the party is the principal challenger to the BJP, offering instances of Goa and Manipur as cases in point. Yet, division in votes opposed to the BJP aiding the governing party does not offer much evidence to support the theory in Uttar Pradesh where in the perception of a section of people, the Samajwadi Party was the only outfit with a realistic chance to shake the BJP from its perch.
    It is in this context one can analyse the decision of young SP president Akhilesh Yadav to retain his seat in the assembly and resign from the Lok Sabha. The move signals a firm commitment of the former Chief Minister to stay put in the cauldron of UP politics and continue to stir it in furtherance of the objective.
    In his role as the Leader of the Opposition, the SP can hope to offer an alternative vision of governance and gradually chip away to remove the perception of a party that winks at law and order structures when in the government. The 2022 assembly results show the party secured some 32 per cent of the votes which was nine percentage points less than the BJP's 41 per cent.
    The path chosen by the SP leader will be strewn with difficulties as he would have to straddle between politically correct positions and the pressures from the party when the new government hits the road running. The SP leadership would have to make difficult choices as political parties begin preparations for the general elections in slightly over two years. Having spent five years in the saddle as the Chief Minister, the young SP leader can walk the path with responsibility, a promise he made at the start of the innings. As the maxim goes, the role of the opposition is to propose, oppose, expose and depose.
    — KV Prasad is a senior journalist and has earlier worked with The Hindu and The Tribune. The views expressed are personal.
    Read his other columns here
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