Where's the opposition?

Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds, said the American author, Orison Swett Marden. But Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was barely posed any challenge from this quarter.

As he completed one year in office on October 31, the media, including this newspaper, has analysed Fadnavis’ achievements and failures, controversies he has courted, and the great expectations people have from him. Perhaps, it’s time the Opposition’s performance is assessed as well.

Unfortunately, since the day the BJP emerged as the single largest party last winter, the Congress and NCP — parties that were in power until they were relegated to Opposition benches last year — have not really played their roles to perfection. Living up to its unpredictable and compromising ways, the NCP extended much-needed support to the BJP’s minority government even before all Assembly results were out. The party justified its decision calling it a measure to avoid yet another election in a cash-strapped state, but a politically aware class knew it was an effort to please the BJP, which had threatened to probe corruption cases involving NCP’s top leaders. The NCP’s move made the Shiv Sena quit the Opposition benches and share a slice of the power pie with the BJP.

It is the Sena that has been acting like the Opposition ever since it joined the government. But that doesn’t mean that the Congress and NCP should take a backseat. Or is the official Opposition content to fool the voters by remaining a mere spectator as the intellectuals stage protests?

The Congress and NCP, which fought polls separately last year, came together in the KDMC elections, but were nowhere to be seen in the straight fight between the Sena and BJP. If you ask the people in Kalyan-Dombivli, they may not even be able to recall the names of the Congress-NCP leaders who had visited the twin towns during the polls. Not a good sign for the parties that dream of toppling the saffron combine in the Mumbai civic and the state Assembly polls.

The NCP’s designs have been specific under the helm of Sharad Pawar, who targets the BJP periodically, but has also maintained the impression that his party has a tacit understanding with the BJP. Pawar has hosted PM Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley in his town Baramati, where he will once again share the stage with CM Fadnavis later this week. The NCP could, by far, be called a cohesive unit, as it has managed some shows of strength, including the rally in Worli on Saturday. The NCP’s agenda is crystal clear — it wants the BJP to be kind to it.

Pawar’s games should make it easier for the Congress to take up the role of serious opposition and reach out to the people, but the Congress’ lethargic think tank has failed grasp this opportunity. The Congress doesn’t really believe in united efforts, not even in its worst phase ever. It is hard to understand what holds the state’s Congress leaders back from playing a strong opposition. The worst part is that the party lacks venom, especially in the lower house. Some Congress leaders who bear a soft corner for the BJP, have been a favourite topic of discussion.

The party has left the task of attacking the BJP to the juniors, especially a few spokespersons. Senior leaders, who had the best time in the party’s 15-year regime, are now hardly seen leaving their luxurious air-conditioned abodes. The party workers have lost communication with senior leaders, who are rarely spotted together in planning and execution. Party insiders say the party doesn’t have the resources to run smoothly because the leaders, who had made a fortune when in power, are not willing to contribute financially.

What more could the ruling party want?

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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