Oppn's 'me first' attitude hit LS polls: Sharad Yadav

Sentiments don’t last forever, people seek answers on real issues, says the Opposition leader

Opposition leader, Sharad Yadav. (DH File Photo)

Exactly two months after Lok Sabha results were out, Opposition leader Sharad Yadav, who had begun Opposition unity efforts way back in 2015, rues that non-NDA parties failed to give a serious impression of unity and bickering cost it in 2019.

In a freewheeling chat with Deccan Herald, Yadav admitted that efforts for the unity of Opposition that were made this time did not percolate down and the main Opposition party Congress’ focus shifted from its main goal of defeating the BJP to building the party.

He also laid a substantial chunk of blame for people’s disillusionment with alliance politics of Opposition on his former colleague and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who in 2017 broke from the RJD-JDU-Congress grand alliance that had managed to defeat the BJP-led NDA in 2015 assembly polls just a year after BJP’s stupendous march to victory in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Yadav feels people voted big for Narendra Modi-led NDA under nationalistic sentiments that saw an upsurge after Balakot strike but says actually the killing of so many CRPF jawans in Pulwama was a failure of the government, whose message the Opposition could not take among people.

Q- Why did all Opposition parties lose so badly in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. How serious all of you were in uniting Opposition? What did not work for you?

Ans- Efforts for unity of Opposition that were made this time did not percolate down to masses. But that was not the only thing. We have started on a united note by organizing Sanjha Virasat Bachao in various parts of the country. There was an atmosphere of the Opposition getting strengthened after back to back to defeats of BJP in by-elections before 2019 Lok Sabha polls as well. What later happened is there was no common platform of Opposition to fight them in 2019. The kind of united effort that should have been visible from the Opposition side was not visible here.

Q- But there were alliances and they too failed. Even in Bihar, there was an alliance. So was in Uttar Pradesh and yet you failed.

Ans- In UP, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, a secular grand alliance having Congress and non-BJP regional parties could not be formed. When Congress was not made a part of it, the message went out that there is an alternative from the Opposition. Then the continuity of the Opposition unity efforts broke midway. Opposition went to polls as a divided force, which people did not accept as an option. It was a 'me first, me first' cry everywhere and that ultimately damaged us.

Even in West Bengal, all parties—Trinamool Congress, Left and Congress fought separately against the BJP. In Bihar even as Congress, RJD, Upendra Kushawaha’s RLSP and Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha came together, this happened quite late and after lot of tug of war and confusion. So the message of unity from this grand alliance could not percolate down among voters.

Q- How do you look at the role of Congress, the single largest Opposition party. They said their main goal was to stop the BJP from coming to power and will have alliances with like-minded parties to do so but they finally failed to get into an alliance with others.

Ans- They got into the exercise of building party, strengthening party base. They also wanted to remove the BJP but were half-hearted in their approach. They could have easily formed alliances in Haryana and Delhi. Similarly in UP also, an Opposition grand alliance could not emerge. Opposition must have come together. Instead of everybody espousing one view with same mental commitment to defeat, people started fighting among themselves.

Q- But whether the BJP was anywhere on losing the trail. How do you describe such a massive victory unless the people wanted to vote for Narendra Modi and BJP? 

Ans- That the BJP was losing ground it had gained in 2014 was also visible with the tough fight Congress gave it in Gujarat and when the saffron party lost three states ruled by it—Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

The bye-elections for Lok Sabha, in particular, attested to the falling graph of the BJP. Opposition parties in their respective strongholds defeated BJP—bet it Kairana (2018), Gorakhpur or Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh (2018) or Alwar and Ajmer in Rajasthan (2018),  Jhabua Ratlam (2015) in Madhya Pradesh. BJP lost Araria in Bihar (2018)  from a margin of two lakh votes. We just could not maintain that tempo and people saw no other alternative emerging. And then Balakot happened swinging the sentiments in favour of the BJP. We did not raise Pulwama attack in the manner it should have been raised. The issue was that so many CRPF jawans were killed despite all kind of intelligence inputs. After Balalkot, BJP made it an issue of macho nationalism and deflected attention from its failure.

Q- The Opposition is demoralized, silent and sulking. Where will it go from here?

Ans- Any big defeats creates disappointment. After Indira Gandhi’s demise in 1984,  we had won very few seats. Even the BJP won just two. BJP’s two stalwarts Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani also lost. Later they had to be brought in Parliament through the Rajya Sabha route. After the results for a long time, even me and Vajpayee did not communicate with each other. We were very demoralized then. So even this time if you some inactivity in Opposition, this is very natural after such a big defeat.

Q- But there does not seem any hope for Opposition even in future. Is the Opposition politics finally dead?

Ans- A change in situation can come any time. It is such a big country. One situation cannot prevail permanently. And you see there is a downward trend everywhere. Industrial production is down, so is GDP and the unemployment is rising. There is also a time limit for sentiments. People will start seeing the real issues.

Q- Earlier whenever a powerful Opposition party was challenged, there was an axis power of Janata Dal and also Left, which used to win 40-50 seats. Now Janata Family is divided and Left is decimated. So how do you hope of any challenge to BJP?

Ans- Yes, Janata Parivar’s division has weakened any alternative power group formation but then we have seen parties coming together when people come together to defeat the ruling party. We have seen it in 1977 and 1989. Unity is created by the situation. When parties, as well as people, lose the patience to tolerate any more, such unity happens. People will once again come together. Without people pressure, mere unity of political parties does not make much difference.

Q- But how will people trust any Opposition alliance. Congress, RJD and JDU came together with much fanfare against BJP in 2015 in Bihar. Within two years, there was a feud between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad and JDU parted ways only to join back BJP.

Ans- This indeed became a big reason. After 2014 victory of Modi-led NDA, it was actually the 2015 Bihar assembly polls, which broke the myth gaining ground that the BJP cannot be defeated. BJP-led NDA which had won 31 of 40 Lok Sabha seats lost badly in 2015 assembly polls when Congress, Lalu Prasad’s RJD and JDU came together. When the grand alliance, which was put together so much of hard work and which was backed so strongly by people bickered and Nitish Kumar, parted ways, it did create doubts in the mind of people about the commitment of people in such alliances. A kind of disappointment spread with relation to the politics of Opposition alliance after that. People worked hard and voted for us but we broke the alliance. , Kumar’s 2017 decision of junking the secular grand alliance and joining the NDA bandwagon did hurt the Opposition unity efforts.

Q-There is again an assembly poll in Bihar next year. Do you see any fresh realignment?

Ans- Situations do emerge but alliances do not happen in an atmosphere of trust deficit.

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