Outlook Bureau: 20 NOVEMBER 2017
Trinamool Congress Member of Parliament Derek O’Brien has found a new strategy for Opposition parties to fight the 2019 general elections against BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The next national election, he says, should not be treated as a battle between Narendra Modi and a single candidate, but as 29 contests in the states.
The opposition should fight the BJP from 29 different regional platforms over diverse issues, O’Brien writes in his new book ‘Inside Parliament: Views From The Front Row’.
“The election should be fought in the idiom and language and with the issues and themes of individual states,” he elaborated to PTI today.
A united opposition needs to chalk out its poll strategy by pitching all opposition leaders against Modi, he added.
“Make this a national election that is a sum of state elections. Make Modi and the BJP fight 29 different regional elections in the idiom and language and with the issues and themes of the individual states,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien chalked out the opposition strategy for 2019 in the new publication, which he described as the “real book” out of the 53 that he had written.
“Don’t let the BJP make it a contest around polarising issues — beef, pseudo-nationalism or some such prime-time, made-for-TV-and-Twitter agenda,” O’ Brien said.
In an essay titled “The BJP is beatable in 2019”, O’Brien suggested that the opposition consider where the BJP juggernaut was stopped in 2014 — “in Bengal by Mamata Banerjee, in Odisha by Naveen Patnaik, in Tamil Nadu by Jayalalithaa and also where the Congress has beaten the BJP in recent times — in Punjab, led by Amarinder Singh”.
To win the 2019 general polls, the opposition should counter allegations of corruptions by raising the issue of competence, he said.
“I am convinced that they (the BJP) are beatable,” he writes.
The government is trying to pen “a false narrative around a ten-letter word — corruption — which the opposition must counter with another ten-letter word — competence — to win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as BJP cannot win on any competence quotient”, he said.
The leader of the TMC in the Rajya Sabha has set up a “common constructive agenda” for opposition unity.
“The BJP is trying to use this ten-letter word, corruption, since demonetisation. The opposition needs to use another ten letter word, competence, to counter the BJP. You have to ask questions about their competence about jobs, competence about the economy, competence about handling the situation after demonetisation, competence about how GST has been rolled out,” O’Brien suggests in his book.
Opposition parties should not get distracted by “polarisation narratives” such as food habits and religion.
“All these will benefit the BJP… This is an agreement all opposition parties need to have. Either inside Parliament or outside,” he told PTI.
O’Brien also had some specific advice for the Congress. It urged the party not to give too much heed to the Left.
“Too much of listening to the Left will put the Congress in trouble,” he said.
To cite a case, he said the TMC had got the sense the Congress was ready to march with it after ten days of demonetisation.
“The Left bullied them in delaying that march. Because they thought the TMC will take the lead so they were looking at it in a very narrow way. (Sitaram) Yechury in Parliament and the Left were trying to slow them down. So I am glad that they stopped listening to the Left,” he said.
He recalled the time when demonetisation was announced last year.
“We marched with Mamata Banerjee. But we were wondering what’s going on. Only two parties marched with us: Shiv Sena and Omar Abdulla’s NC. Hardly one month later, every one was marching down to Rashtrapati Bhavan,” he said.
Hinting at political equations between Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, O’Brien stated that Gandhi was the cementing factor of opposition unity, while Banerjee was the acceptable leader who could bridge gaps between conflicting parties within the opposition.
The book, with 50 essays, has been published by HarperCollins and will be launched on November 23 in Delhi.