The photo of leaders of various non-BJP political parties sharing a common platform at the swearing in ceremony of the Janata Dal (Secular) leader H D Kumarswamy as Karnataka Chief Minister may be billed in political circles as the photo of the year. The photo will be flaunted very frequently prior to the 2019 general election to speak of the serious challenge posed by the anti-BJP front to the hitherto much claimed invincibility of the Bharatiya Janata Party and emergence of a powerful alternative to the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It is true that for the first time in recent years, leaders of various main political parties across various states who normally do not even see eye to eye, had shared a common platform at the Bengaluru oath taking ceremony. The body language of these leaders including Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, Telugu Desam Party’s N Chandrababu Naidu, Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee, and CPM’s Sitaram Yechuri revealed a bonhomie which was unimaginable a few weeks ago.
But is there any reason for those critical of the BJP or those in favour of change of power at the Centre to be elated at this photo op event? Public memory, they say, is short and this has led to the euphoria among the anti-BJP camp over this Bengaluru event. Such euphoria was created in the country on several occasions and the events following them have not been very encouraging.
The country had witnessed a major change of power at the Centre and in many states in 1977 for the first time in the post-independence era. At that time, that leaders of various non-Congress parties who had diverse ideologies and interest had got united and defeated the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Congress Party in national and state elections. At that time, leaders of the socialist parties including George Fernandes, Madhu Limaye, Morarji Desai of the Syndicate Congress, Charan Singh of Bharatiya Lok Dal, Jagjivan Ram of the Congress for Democracy, Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani of the Jan Sangh, Biju Patnaik of Odisha’s Utkal Congress, Haryana’s Devi Lal and ‘Young Turks’ like Chandra Sekhar and Mohan Dharia were elected to the Lok Sabha with a common election symbol of a party which was later named as Janata Party. But soon after winning power at the Centre, most of these leaders could not suppress their ambition to be the prime minister and were literally driven to the Raj Ghat by Jayprakash Narayan and Acharya
JB Kripalani to swear that they will remain united. What however followed only a few months later is history.
The same euphoria was witnessed following the electoral defeat of the Congress led by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989. At that time, VP Singh had emerged as the new political messiah for those opposed to the Congress. The VP Singh government fell soon when the BJP withdrew its support and this led to the formation of the much short lived and Congress supported government led by Chandra Shekhar.
It is true that the electorates in the country by and large are not swayed by left, right or the centrist ideologies but they do expect that a government should deliver the goods. When this does not happen, they look for a political alternative. The question is whether the anti-BJP political front will prove itself as a viable alternative to the existing political dispensation.