The Congress quandary
A government without an opposition is an unfortunate scenario in a democracy and the BJP’s emphatic victory march in successive state polls has ensured a resistance-free run for the Modi government in the remaining two years of its term at the Centre.
The Modi-Shah team has acquired an unbeatable status and if the current state of opposition is a reflection of things to come, majoritarianism is in for a long spell.
The Indian polity is standing at the crossroads, where it is difficult to define who is the opposition? On paper, the Congress is the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, the people’s house, with 45 MPs. But the single largest status is a misnomer as the difference between the Congress’ strength and the ruling BJP is a staggering 237 MPs.
The BJP is also fast narrowing the gap in the Rajya Sabha, which has been the opposition’s house. The difference between the single largest — the Congress —and the second largest —the BJP — has been reduced to just three MPs. The Congress has 59 seats in Rajya Sabha, while the BJP’s strength is 56.
Moving to the states, except Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, the BJP has a chief minister in every province moving southwards till Karnataka. With the exception of West Bengal, Bihar and a few northeastern states, the saffron flag flies high from Gujarat in the west to Manipur in the east.
Not only has the Congress been decimated, but the regional opponents of the BJP also find themselves struggling to dominate the national politics.

The AIADMK is the second largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha with 37 MPs. The demise of party supremo J Jayalalitha has tossed the party into a spin providing a space for the BJP to strengthen its place in a key southern state, which sends 39 MPs to Lok Sabha.
All India Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal, has 34 MPs in the Lok Sabha. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who once was with the NDA, is one of the biggest critics of the Modi government. But she finds herself trapped in a web of CBI cases. How far can the party shake-off the shackles by 2019 is anybody’s guess.
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, broke off from the NDA and won 20 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. After making impressive gains in the local body elections, the BJP senses that it will be in a serious contention to challenge Naveen Patnaik. It is no coincidence that Odisha will be the venue for BJP’s next national executive on April 15.
Nitish Kumar in Bihar, the man who blunted Modi’s aggression in the assembly polls, is struggling to keep the alliance running with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
That leaves Rahul Gandhi as a lone contender to take on Modi in 2019. Reams have been spent on writing off Congress vice-president for his abilities to slow down the Modi juggernaut. The deficiency in the Congress is not about the leadership alone. The party has also lost the ideological battle with the BJP.

The kind of polarisation that took place in Uttar Pradesh and the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister showed that secularism as a poll mascot has lost its sheen. The BJP has been able to convince voters that secularism was a euphemism for minority appeasement.
The Congress and the so-called secular parties will have to coin a new slogan to counter the militant majoritarianism. This is not the first time that it is facing such a dilemma. Soft Hindutva has been the party’s answer to counter polarisation, but it has not helped the cause.
At a time when there is no dearth of suggestions for the Congress, it can no longer just wait for the BJP to make mistakes. The sporadic bouts of aggression shown by Rahul Gandhi delivered without the power of conviction has created doubt in the voter’s mind. The party will not only have to settle the ideological issues, but also dismantle brick by brick, the uncomfortable legacy of corruption, which has become synonymous with some of its leader. The grand old party needs a brand new look.
Columnist: 
Gautam Datt
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