The BJP’s decision to gobble up four Telugu Desam Party (TDP) lawmakers in the Parliament is a trailer of what the Opposition can expect in the next few years.
As the years roll on, two things will unfold: One, the BJP will devour other parties, their leaders and vote banks. Two, it will make an aggressive bid for states in southern India, where it currently has very little presence.
As this script unfolds, Opposition leaders will face a barrage of charges, probes and pressures, which will make them vulnerable. Some of them will wilt in the face of a relentless charge and thus, become part of the BJP.
Some of them will either become redundant, like SM Krishna, or give up, like Rahul Gandhi. A select few will stand up to the onslaught, but at their own peril.
So, don’t be surprised if the BJP’s 2013 mission to make India free of the Congress expands into a much bigger plan, this time for making the country Opposition-mukt. What looked impossible a few years ago, can soon become a reality.
Old script, new names
On Thursday, when four Rajya Sabha members of the TDP “decided to join” the saffron party, we witnessed the culmination of a familiar script that had unfolded earlier in Gujarat, West Bengal and the northeast. Its central theme being the co-option of Opposition leaders as a shortcut to a larger political space for the BJP.
Two of these MPs were facing serious charges and probes. In 2018, the BJP had demanded action against C M Ramesh and Y S Chowdary, calling them guilty of huge financial frauds. On Thursday, their past was all but cleansed by the simple expedient of political floor crossing.
The trajectory of these MPs is similar to that of Himanta Biswa Sarma and Mukul Roy, two prized catches of the BJP in Assam and West Bengal.
Like Roy and Sarma, both these leaders were considered close to their party high command and wielded enormous clout before their exit. Like them, Roy and Sarma were also were questioned for their role in the Saradha scam — a Ponzi scheme that ran into crores — before becoming part of the BJP and rivals of their former patrons. There is, obviously, a template and pattern to these defections.
The Lok Sabha elections have made it clear that there is very limited opposition left to the BJP in north, west and east. The Congress has crumbled in the Hindi heartland; the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have surrendered in Uttar Pradesh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal is dead in Bihar.
The last bastion of resistance, Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal, is under siege, both through aggressive politics and some clever ploys to destabilise the government.
South remains a challenge
Only the south remains out of the BJP’s fold. Its surgical strike on the TDP shows the BJP is making a renewed bid for the south.
While it waits for the success of ‘Operation Lotus’ to topple the JDS-Congress coalition government in Karnataka — the chief minister has already predicted a mid-term poll — the BJP is also trying to occupy the Opposition space in the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana.
In Andhra, it senses an opportunity to wipe out the TDP and make inroads with a tacit alliance with YSRC chief Jaganmohan Reddy, who will ultimately find himself in a political battle with the BJP. In Telengana, the BJP plans to build on its recent wins in the Lok Sabha elections and the demise of the Congress.
BJP is trying its options in Tamil Nadu too, although with limited success. After the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, her party has been reduced to the BJP’s B-team.
Aware of the limitations of the current AIADMK leaders, the BJP has also a space open for Rajnikanth, who might take the expected plunge into politics before the next Assembly polls.
To sum up, the BJP’s next targets are these four southern states.
All for ‘Akhand Bharat’
The saffron party’s desire to become a pan-India party is easily understandable. In Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, it has a formidable combination of leaders who have the expansionist zeal of the Sultans and the kings of yore.
They see every unconquered territory as a challenge and do not give up until it comes under their baton. This zeal is a political manifestation of the RSS’s dream of a cultural and political monolith, the dream of ‘Akhand Bharat.’
The BJP needs a brute majority also because its alma mater, the RSS, has several projects to pursue — the abolition of Article 370 for better “assimilation of Kashmir”, introduction of a Uniform Civil Code and the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. And thus, it needs pan-India support and zero opposition.
Playing into BJP’s hands
The Opposition, unable to see the larger game plan, is playing into the BJP’s hands. The Congress has virtually surrendered everywhere, except in Kerala and Punjab, reducing itself to a regional party. Its leadership is in complete disarray.
The decision to name Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury — a leader whose appeal is restricted to a single West Bengal constituency — as its chief in the Lok Sabha shows the Congress has absolutely no desire to take on the BJP.
In Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have split despite the tangible gains because of their alliance in the Lok Sabha elections. In Andhra Pradesh, Jaganmohan is cosying up to the BJP, helping it make inroads into the state.
In Telengana, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is cannibalising the Congress, and thus, vacating the Opposition space for the BJP. In Karnataka, the Congress and JDS are bickering constantly, making the people yearn for a stable government.
The BJP is very close to wiping out the Opposition from the political space. Its opening its gambit in Andhra Pradesh is just the beginning of the end game.