If the Rajya Sabha elections, and then the run-up to the oncoming presidential elections, are any indication, the opposition is about to face a steep challenge in the days to come.
The presidential contest has already been set, and either the ruling party or the Opposition may win, based on the announcement of their candidates. Either way, Indian democracy will score a big win as it succeeds to elect its President in an elaborate manner proving its credentials as a mature democracy.
The numbers favour Murmu’s candidacy in the Yashwant Sinha vs Draupadi Murmu contest, as a result of her unassailable position.
In a democracy, the candidacy of ‘President Murmu’ will have enormous symbolic significance. Although there are many firsts along the way, the school teacher from Odisha has worked her way up the political ladder against all odds, as a councilor, legislator, minister, and governor, the first president of a Scheduled Tribe and only the second woman to the country’s highest constitutional position.
It will be a token if she is elected.
As a result, a section of the Opposition may now voice their disapproval. They might cite her candidacy as an example of tokenism, as her candidacy is driven by the BJP’s electoral calculation in Odisha and among Scheduled Tribe electorates ahead of the next round of elections.
The real issue being discussed here is whether the BJP is capable of pushing Hindutva to its logical conclusion or if it will concede real power to minority groups.
However, the perception that these arguments are sour grapes on the part of those who see the writing on the wall seems to be growing after the announcement of her candidacy.
There is no doubt that the opposition was poorly prepared to put up a fight. In the run-up to the presidential election, the Opposition was not able to produce either political imagination or agility in fighting.
It was uncharacteristically embarrassed in the run-up to the presidential election, when it needed to put up a united display and rally behind a consensus candidate, even if the likelihood of winning was small. It ended up proposing names of prospective candidates for the job, but they declined the offer.
The refusal of Gopal Gandhi, Farooq Abdullah, and Sharad Pawar to accept the Congress party’s invitation to stand for president was a clear indication that the party did not undertake sufficient groundwork before making the names public.
It requires 17 parties to support Yashwant Sinha as the common opposition candidate, even though several non- BJP parties, including Naveen Patnaik’s BJD would not oppose Murmu’s candidacy.
These groups include prominently the BJD in Orissa and the JMM in Jharkhand, where she served as governor and where a large percentage of Scheduled Tribes reside.
Before the presidential race, the BJP’s successful electoral victories and its ability to set the agenda are once again affirmed.
If the Rajya Sabha election, and then the run-up to the presidential elections, are any indication, the opposition is about to face a steep challenge in the days to come.