Can Yashwant Sinha be united opposition’s leadership face?

Rohit Chandavarkar
Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Just like the ‘glorious uncertainties of the game of cricket’, politics in India too is poised to be very interesting in the coming months ahead of the general elections and Yashwant Sinha by pitching himself as an anti-BJP force, has only made it more dramatic!

It’s become very obvious that just about 12 months ahead of the next big general elections in India, many leaders of the opposition parties can sense that there is huge distress in rural India and notable discontent in the public. The big question is how to now utilise this and who will lead the opposition which till now seems a divided house. Veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha now perhaps feels that he is senior enough to take on this challenge and fill this leadership vacuum.   

In 1977, it was Jayprakash Narayan who became the face of discontent against a very powerful regime of Indira Gandhi. In 1989, it was VP Singh who led the opposition charge against Rajiv Gandhi. Now, since Nitish Kumar or Mamata Banerjee seems to be not inclined to take that role, Yashwant Sinha feels that he can convince all parties to form a united opposition against the seemingly invincible Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Analysing this, Rajya Sabha MP and veteran journalist Kumar Ketkar in his article in ‘The Print’ says, “Yashwant Sinha has spoken. He has not described his position as that of a rebel or claimed that he is starting a revolution of sorts. He is not sure how many BJP leaders or ministers or members of Parliament will respond to his appeal to come to the defence of democratic values. Widely circulated, the former finance minister’s appeal was also a subject of fervent private discussions. Many BJP leaders conversed about it in hush-hush tones, making sure no one but the real confidants heard. The top caucus of the BJP (i.e. Modi, Shah, Jaitley, Venkaiah, etc) did not take cognisance of the letter, and nor did the extra-constitutional centre of power, the RSS, respond”.

Ketkar further says, “When asked about Sinha, the official spokespersons of the party said he was frustrated and disgruntled about not getting a ministry. It would be best to ignore him and his remarks,” he added. 

“As has been done with Arun Shourie, Ram Jethmalani, Shatrughan Sinha and Kirti Azad, who have been voicing similar concerns as the former finance ministers for the past two years. The one-man-show of Narendra Modi goes on uninterrupted, not only in India but on the global stage”.

Mentioning the history of similar rebellions, Ketkar says, “In political sociology, such differences or conflicts are discussed in an impersonal and even non-ideological fashion. They have surfaced in different countries as a result of different situations, whether the political structure is a capitalist democracy, social democracy or communist. Julius Caeser had his Brutus. Stalin had his Khrushchev.”

When Richard Nixon faced an internal rebellion, he thought he could weather it over time. The media, even after the Watergate exposé in 1972, was not totally hostile to him at first. However, slowly, the rebellion began to gain ground. Nixon’s lies and skulduggery began to be revealed, even in pro-Republican media. Nixon panicked but did not relent, till the noose of imminent impeachment began to asphyxiate him. That’s when he resigned, to save himself from the ultimate humiliation of impeachment (All this recent history is brilliantly retold in the films, The Post, All the President’s Men and Nixon).

“Sinha would obviously not have taken the step he has without consulting LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Shourie, Shatrughan Sinha and many others. As the 2019 elections draw closer, slowly, the internal resistance will start building up and the widespread bureaucratic frustrations will surface. The media, too, under the force of the public and TRPs, will slowly begin to change their tune. This is, of course, notwithstanding the few who will still be defending ‘Modi, the Messiah’ 10 years from now. 

Remember the rebellion of Jagjivan Ram, Nandini Satpathy and Hemavati Nandan Bahuguna soon after the elections were announced by Indira Gandhi on January 18, 1977? The trio formed a party called ‘Congress For Democracy’. Very few commentators recognise the fact that, but for this open revolt, the Janata Party would not have come to power. Neither Jayprakash Narayan nor George Fernandes or even the RSS, thought the Indira regime could be defeated. In fact, George wanted to boycott the election and the RSS was looking for a patch-up with Sanjay Gandhi and Indira. All thought she would win and come back to power and it would thus be better to play it safe. But the Janata Party won handsomely, claiming to have brought a ‘second freedom’ to the country”.

So if one goes by historical evidence, one may say that Yashwant Sinha has a fair chance of succeeding in what he has undertaken. But other factors such as the Congress Party’s role in next elections, the uncertainty in the southern part of India and factors such as regional players splitting the opposition vote, still make things a bit uncertain. Just like the ‘glorious uncertainties of the game of cricket’, politics in India too is poised to be very interesting in the coming months and Sinha by pitching himself as an anti-BJP force, has only made it more dramatic!

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