The states of Haryana and Maharashtra are set to go to polls on 21 October. Given the current political scenario - marked by a dark shadow of dictatorship on our democratic legacy - elections to both the states hold particular significance. The national political climate is in such a frozen state that even an overnight bifircuation of a state into two and declaring both union territories, have not triggered any striking political turmoil worth the name at the national level.
An opposition so afflicted with inertia is rare in our political experience. The goal of BJP is a Congress-free Bharat, as its president has made clear many times – a rather innocuous one viewed as a ruling party's dream to politically eliminate the prominent party of the opposition. However, opposition is not synonymous with any particular party, but an essential factor to buttress democracy. If it comes to a situation without an opposition, that in fact spells the death of democracy. The nation will then be falling into an abyss with slim chances of rising again.
Both Haryana and Maharashtra are ruled by BJP. In the country's richest state of Maharashtra, the BJP surpassed its own ally BJP and came to power in the last assembly election. Shiv Sena, a political movement combining in itself strands of Hindu communalism and Maratha chauvinism, does not have its erstwhile vigour now. And the BJP, using power and the grassroots presence of RSS, has been able to widen its base in the state.
At the same time, the Opposition, either Congress or NCP, has not been able to capitalise on the political incongruencies prevailing between Shiv Sena and BJP. Congress and NCP have decided to contest 125 seats each out of the total of 288, and the remaining seats will be given to their smaller allies. They have given the impression that the first round is going smooth without any hitch. However, it is to be recalled that the same Congress-NCP alliance had contested the last Lok Sabha election, and was confined to a mere five seats. Other parties, like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena – which has better presence in certain regions of the state - and Prakash Ambedkar's Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh are not part of the Congress-NCP alliance.
The Lok Sabha elections were contested by Prakash Ambedkar's party in alliance with Asaduddin Owaisi's All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) forming a front called Vanchit Bahujan Agadi. It was under this banner that AIMIM's Imtiaz Jaleel won from Aurangabad to Lok Sabha. But also, it was the presence of this alliance that resulted in the loss of half a dozen Lok Sabha seats for Congress. Whether the same Majlis-Prakash Ambedkar alliance will be in the fray like last time is not yet clear. But, what is clear is that neither party will be part of the Congress' alliance, a fact that is sure to weaken the opposition line-up against the BJP. In Haryana either, Congress has not been successful in achieving strong opposition unity.
In the current political equations, a broad opposition unity, at whatever cost or compromise it may take, is an imperative to take on BJP. The last Lok Sabha result, that of Uttar Pradesh in particular, underlines this fact. The circumstances are such that the concept of unity has transcended the level of official relations between parties to assume the dimensions of a social movement. But what the spectacle in Maharashtra and Haryana proves is that the Opposition has failed to be seized of the seriousness of the situation in their behaviour. Further, BJP has also succeeded in scaring to kill the morale of several leading figures in the Opposition leadership through cases filed by Enforcement Directorate and CBI.
All this when it is a fact that the majority of the population is uneasy about the present political circumstances. The country is going through a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions. But, it is lamentable that even at such a juncture the Opposition is incapable of mobilising the discontent of the people and of using it politically.