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Opinion | Political opportunism rules the day

People are disillusioned by declining political standards, hence the rise in NOTA votes

columns Updated: Apr 15, 2019 08:56 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
No one is a permanent enemy or friend in the age of coalition politics
No one is a permanent enemy or friend in the age of coalition politics(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
         

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has filed a FIR against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging that the latter has deceived the 4.5 crore people of the state on the issue of giving special status to Odisha.

This BJD tactic has raised some questions. It’s true that the BJP had promised to grant special status to Odisha in its manifesto for the 2014 Vidhan Sabha elections. But if criminal cases are filed on the basis of manifestos, then many of the prominent leaders of major political parties will be in jail. Has Naveen Patnaik himself been able to fulfil all the promises he made during the last four elections?

If Naveen Patnaik was so unhappy with the BJP, then why did his party MPs stage a walk-out when there was a no-confidence motion against the present government in the Lok Sabha? Not only this, earlier too, in nominating the Rajya Sabha deputy speaker and the president, the BJD was supported the BJP. Doesn’t this policy of changing colours according to convenience amount to fooling voters?

If you look at the history of coalition politics, you cannot anticipate when old and strong friends turn into enemies or when an old enmity mysteriously transforms into friendship! Andhra Pradesh neighbours Odisha. Chandrababu Naidu is the chief minister in Andhra Pradesh. In 2014, his Telegu Desam Party (TDP) contested the Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the BJP. By winning 18 out of 25 seats, this alliance had proved that the people had accepted it. About a year ago, Naidu was considered close to the BJP. He had even invited the prime minister to lay the foundation stone for Andhra’s new capital Amaravati. The TDP supported the BJP in the election of the president and the Vice President. But on March 17, 2018, he also broke away from the NDA on the issue of granting special status to the state. Naidu has alleged that he visited New Delhi 29 times to convince the central government on this issue but the Centre did not pay attention.

Last November, Chandrababu Naidu contested the Telangana assembly elections in alliance with the Congress and both parties lost. Now the Congress and TDP are fighting the Lok Sabha elections separately.

The present leaders of the BJD and Telugu Desam are the heirs to political history. But even the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) which has revolutionary roots has not been left untouched by this. Praful Kumar Mahanta had contested the last Assam assembly election in coalition with the BJP. He was an ally in the NDA too. But in January he walked out of the alliance protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. It seemed as if Praful’s old aggressive attitude was returning, but this was not so. As Lok Sabha elections drew nearer, the BJP high command wooed him and he became an NDA’s ally again. While breaking or making a coalition, why do our regional leaders forget that they have some responsibility towards the voters too?

Like the AGP, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also came to power in Delhi with the promise of alternative politics. At that time, the Modi wave had swept the country and Kejriwal’s victory came like a breath of fresh air to those who favoured a new brand of politics. But after four years, this euphoria is fading. Of course, the AAP has done some public welfare work in Delhi but its political thought has now become like any other regional political party. It is now talking of an alliance with the Congress, the very party opposing which Kejriwal built his political career on. Doesn’t this prove that this alternative politics is also shallow and meaningless? The second question arises—does our democracy not allow ideals to survive and mature?

One thing is certain, Indian political leaders have undermined political standards. Today, whether it is the NDA or the UPA, many of their allies periodically raise the banner of revolt against them. These coalitions built with the bricks of personal ambition and political self-interest are fragile and cannot fulfil their responsibilities towards the common man.

This is the reason why the practice of using NOTA is gradually increasing. Four months ago, elections in Madhya Pradesh had opened the eyes of political parties. Here, 5.42 lakh out of 5.05 crore voters had used the NOTA option. Had these many votes been cast in favour of the BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan , he would have become chief minister for the fourth time. And had the Congress got these votes, it would definitely have won an absolute majority, because the difference between defeat and victory was less than 5,000 votes in 44 seats.

Don’t you think that this democratic resistance of people against existing political parties, leaders and coalitions is getting stronger? If this continues in the Lok Sabha elections as well, then the results could well be shocking.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Apr 15, 2019 01:20 IST