2019 General Elections – BJP Sitting Pretty with TINA

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A triumvirate within the party is running the Government hoping against hope that the opposition will never be united.

The General Elections are just about nine months away. The ruling BJP is sitting pretty, smug with satisfaction that ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) factor will come to its rescue as the Opposition, a motley combination of political groups, are too ideologically divergent to put up a stiff fight against it.
Given the BJP’s pathetic record on economic front, security situation, external relations, and the torn social fabric, it seems the people will opt for any alternative if they can satisfy that it could be a viable rival to the BJP which is being run by a triumvirate. So the BJP and its hired propagandists in the media are pushing the TINA rhetoric in order to convince the people that a disunited Opposition is no match to it. The question to be asked is: If there is no alternative in democracy, would there be an alternative in dictatorship?
This question was asked even during the tenure of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. “Who after Nehru?” was the question. But we have witnessed that there were Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi (twice), V.P. Singh, Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee (twice), Dr. Manmohan Singh and the current Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. The list is longer and names of those who came for shorter periods is being omitted. What it boils down to is that alternatives emerge out of democracy.
I remember that Vajpayee had mocked at the Devegowda-led United Front Government which had 13 parties supporting it. But Vajpayee himself formed a government which had 23 parties as constituents. So it is wrong to say that there is no alternative. There are alternatives in democracy, not under dictatorship.

Non-Congressism of 60s
In 1967, the frustration against continued Congress rule was at its zenith. So Ram Manohar Lohia, a socialist leader, forged an alliance of non-Congress parties and non-Congress Samyukt Vidhayak Dal (SVD) governments came to power in several states in the mid-1960s. However, since they were mainly united on a plank of anti-Congressism, they could not sustain themselves in power for long. There was no internal ideological glue that could keep them united. Nonetheless, an alternative emerged.
Lohia promoted the non-Congressism as he saw in it an ideological angle. He wrote: Congress rule was undemocratic and opposed to ordinary people’s interest. Therefore it was necessary for opposition parties to come together for reclaiming the democracy for the people.

Fanning Phobias
Today, a similar situation prevails. Vajpayee government itself was an alternative. But today the BJP is having a two-pronged strategy of fanning fears and phobias on one hand and TINA on the other. We need to decide that we will not hand over the power to this three-people government.

I have been pursuing Psephology. It is not about predicting. It deals only with projection of outcome on the basis of dominant trends. It is very easy to project the outcome where there is a wave. But when there are undercurrents, it is difficult to make predictions.
In 1989, India Today had projected that Rajiv Gandhi would return because there is no alternative (TINA). It was proved wrong. We saw that an alternative grouping led by Mr. V. P. Singh emerged and Congress was defeated.
Similarly, in 2015 Bihar elections, Nitish led Mahagathbandhan was shown to be losing. A veteran editor was discussing why Nitish is losing on a TV channel at 9 am. But after 20 minutes when I switched on the TV again, the same editor was explaining why he is winning. Evidently he had miscalculated the trends.
Paid Opinion Polls
This is truer in a situation when there is no wave but only undercurrents as it obtains today. If there is skewed narrative from the beginning, how could the people see the outcome. Remember, the exit polls are being manufactured and manipulated today as there are several competing agencies. There have been sting operations which have exposed the deals between these agencies and the political parties.
I remember the days when Chaudhury Devilal was chief minister of Haryana and having negotiations with heads of several other parties in the Haryana Bhavan. Breakfast was ordered. A waiter brought an omlette, he turned back and yelled: “Stupid fellow! Have you broken all the eggs and mixed them up like this.”
The shivering waiter replied: “Huzoor! How else the omlette can be prepared.”
Devilal then turned towards the leaders and said: Did you hear him? Look at his wisdom and look within yourself. Unless you break your eggs in a trough and mix it, omlette will remain out of your reach.
The message is clear for the Opposition parties. Keep aside your super egos and be prepared for an omlette. Failure to do this would result in the triumvirate coming back to power.
(Note: The political commentary is based on Vinod Dua’s Jan Gan Man ki Baat episode 294 of thewire.in)