The Manch should pave way to resurgence of democracytext_fields
On May 23, 2018, HD Kumaraswamy was sworn in as the 18th Chief Minister of Karnataka. The event was indeed a different chapter in the history of Indian parliamentary politics. The BJP emerged as the single largest party in the elections held that year. However, unable to procure an absolute majority, they were unable to form government in the state. 'Operation Lotus' conducted by Amit Shah to woo legislators from other parties also bore no fruit. On the other hand, the opposition Congress pledged support to 'Kumaranna'. With that, the political uncertainty ended and the path was cleared for Kumaraswamy to be Chief Minister. There is nothing unusual about wooing opposition party leaders and post-electoral alliances that political parties engage in to secure the absolute majority in the legislative assembly; the Indian public has witnessed this multiple times. However, Kumaraswamy's case was different and historic for his creative approach. After coming to power by packing offthe Sangh Parivar, he also made his swearing ceremony a forum for an anti-fascist alliance. The function which was attended by almost all secular leaders in the country turned the unofficial announcement for a grand alliance against the Sangh government. If the alliance had indeed gone forth, perhaps the result of the Lok Sabha elections which ensued the following year would have been different. But in the absence of such an alliance, the country rewarded Modi with a second term in power; soon Kakrnataka's 'secular alliance fell apart and Kumaraswamy lost power. We recount this incident of two years ago at a time when another grand alliance is coming to life against the Modi government. The Rashtra Manch which has been functioning as a common collective against the policies of the Sangh Parivar has now decided to expand its scope of work to another realm.
The meeting of the Rashtra Manch at NCP leader Sharad Pawar's residence in Delhi on Tuesday has triggered new political debates. The Rashtra Manch was formed in January 2018 as a collective of writers, artists, journalists and trade union leaders who believe in the spirit of a pluralist India. Most secular parties supported the formation of the collective in 2018. After former union minister and current TMC leader Yaswhwant Sinha became the convenor, the collective has been able to offer strong opposition to the various anti-democratic moves of the Modi government. Gandhi Shantiyatra held by the Manch last year against CAA-NRC is one among those. Even in the latest assembly elections in Bengal, several including Yashwant used the Manch against the BJP and reaped positive results. One must assume that under Sharad Pawar's leadership, efforts are being made to expand the collective to a large anti-Modi alliance. It wouldn't be wrong to assume this to become an effort towards a grand creative opposition ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections to occur in about three years. In that sense, the move is indeed welcome. However, here again there is no tangible difference from the inherent weakness of the opposition witnessed over ages.
In the meeting called for by Pawar, there was no representative from the largest opposition party, the Congress. Though the reason for the absence is not clear as of now, the idea of a grand alliance without Congress is not very convincing. One can only view it with pity if these seasoned leaders are still revelling in seniority squabbles in this crucial circumstance when even small organisations standing firm on secularism must be held together. In a way, it is such divisions that enabled the growth of fascism in the country. At present, one is forced to say that an opposition does not exist in our country. In fact, the very notion of an opposition has been erased by the brute majority of the NDA in the parliament coupled with the disunity among opposition parties. This change is emblematic of a change from a democracy to fascism. The only way around is the formation of a creative front to prevent this. In order to counter the common enemy, all secular political organisations must come together keeping all their ideological differences aside. The question that remains is whether the Rashtra Manch can forge such an alliance, for it is the last straw left for Indian democracy.