PRIME Minister of India, Narendra Modi, has created a larger than life image in just two years. The next 1,095 days will not only lay down the roadmap of the BJP but also the Opposition. The days ahead will decide which way the Indian polity and economy will move. In the two years gone by, Modi has laid down the vision for India vis-a-vis the world. The game has just reversed—for the last 60 years it was Congress versus others, now it’s BJP versus others. Will the Opposition be able to consolidate and provide a respectable fight to the Modi-led BJP? Does the Opposition have the vision and decisive speed to match Modi? In that sense, Modi has completely changed the dynamics of Indian politics and at present, there seems to be no leader to match his stature at the national level. Mulayam Singh’s political credibility will be tested in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2017. But he is unable to look beyond caste combinations, forget the national agenda. As for Mayawati, it is to be seen whether she’ll be able to emerge as a dark horse in the UP election. Jayalalithaa may not like to join any Opposition grouping as she does not trust the Opposition parties. Moreover, she may not like to come out of her cocoon. Mamata Banerjee is a leader to be watched for the next three years and it will be interesting to see how she performs in West Bengal. Also, to don a national role she will have to make herself acceptable to the Opposition parties. The stumbling block for Mamata is that the people who surround her don’t have the vision to run even a State. Mamata’s image is that of an agitator, while to be a pan-India leader you need a vision, persona and understanding of issues.
Nitish Kumar has the potential to emerge as a national leader, but he has many problems within the State and his party. I doubt he will be able to emerge out from his own problems and present himself as an acceptable leader of the Opposition conglomerate. He lacks the spark of Modi and his body language does not inspire the youth. Naveen Patnaik is suave, soft-spoken and an efficient administrator, but he appears to be content in his own kingdom. He may welcome any combination which can weaken the BJP as he can easily deal with the Congress. Chandrababu Naidu would have been an inspired choice for an Opposition leader, but he has already chosen his political roadmap. The real crisis is with the Left parties, mainly CPI-M and CPI. They appear to have lost their footing in the Indian political landscape. They owe their survival to the labour unions across India. At most, they can only act as a catalyst to Opposition unity. As for Arvind Kejriwal, he has a long way to go. He can join any bandwagon that enhances his chances to remain relevant on the national horizon. Apart from Kejriwal, all the others are leaders of a bygone era. Most of them are still caught up in caste, religion and region while the world has become boundary less.
The real test is for the Congress Party. If everything goes as per plan, Rahul Gandhi will formally take over as the party president. But, who will accept him as the leader of Opposition? None, at this point. Rahul Gandhi alone will not be able to emerge as a national leader as regional satraps will cede their political space. So, there is a big vacuum in the Opposition. The paradox is that even in the BJP, there is no second line of leadership that can match the persona of Modi in the next three years.