Monday Musings: Two years in opposition, is BJP's response floundering?

Monday Musings: Two years in opposition, is BJP’s response floundering?
© Provided by Hindustan Times After 24 months out of power, the BJP now finds itself grappling with its own issues and losing its grip over the narrative it tried to set months ago as a series of crises hit the MVA government. (In pic) Former CM Devendra Fadnavis. (HT PHOTO)

Two years may not be an adequate period to peruse the performance of those in power since the mandate is for five years. But in Maharashtra, parties that came to power in 2019 did not originally enjoy the mandate nor were they all-natural allies. So, when the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress as part of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) managed to complete two years in office on Sunday, it was in itself an achievement.

But what about Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which emerged as the largest party to be a natural claimant for power and yet ended up in opposition? After 24 months out of power, the BJP now finds itself grappling with its own issues and losing its grip over the narrative it tried to set months ago as a series of crises hit the MVA government.

If there is a lot to assess when the MVA is completing two years in office, the opposition’s performance in Maharashtra may not have been up to the mark despite BJP being aggressive, which has increased bitterness between the government and the opposition.

The opposition’s main task is to hold the government accountable and to convince people about the shortcomings of those in power to increase their base. BJP’s response in the past few months has been lacking in this regard. If it has attempted to push Uddhav Thackeray-led dispensation to corner on issues of governance, the recent actions by central agencies against some MVA ministers have overshadowed.

After action against former home minister Anil Deshmukh in a case of extortion of 100 crore from restaurants and bars, the MVA has been able to successfully create a perception that central agencies are being misused in Maharashtra against its ministers. There is a sense of victimhood that the MVA is trying to play up to generate sympathy among people.

For some BJP leaders, harping regularly on a tune of “this government will collapse in a few days” hasn’t helped its cause a bit. It has in fact dented its image of an unbeatable force with a ‘development first’ agenda especially when MVA’s record of initiating major infrastructure projects has been extremely poor.

If the government is perceived by many as lukewarm to big projects, the BJP has failed to corner it further after initial success when MVA shifted Metro car shed, changed the site for the proposed airport in Purandar and showed reluctance to the bullet train.

In Pune, the BJP hasn’t been able to raise its voice on the airport issue no matter how crucial the project is for the city that contributes most in Maharashtra after Mumbai in employment and revenue. The other projects like the outer ring road in Pune hasn’t progressed anywhere while work on Metro rail has slowed with deadlines missed twice for starting commercial operations at least on priority stretch.

The government on its part has cited Covid-19 as an excuse for its inability to start new projects or delay in carrying out existing projects. But it hasn’t handled the Covid-19 situation well, particularly in Pune, which was worst affected. The BJP on its part has not been able to highlight that well no matter government’s focus was only restricted to Mumbai when Covid-19 cases surged during the second wave and people were dying without beds in hospitals or oxygen.

The BJP’s tally in the state assembly is 106, an increase of one legislator after it won Pandharpur polls. In the MVA, the Shiv Sena has 56 seats, the NCP has 53 and the Congress has 44. In Pune, six out of eight legislators are from the city. The Member of Parliament (MP) is also from BJP while the civic body is also being controlled by it. Yet, BJP’s record of highlighting lacunas of this government has so far been poor.

The recent communal riots in places like Amravati, Nanded and Malegaon has provided the BJP with an opportunity to regroup by looking to monopolise Maharashtra’s Hindutva vote-bank through discrediting the Shiv Sena as a secular party. How much it succeeds will be visible in the coming civic elections at 13 cities including Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.

The municipal elections hold vital importance for the BJP and their results may determine how the MVA trajectory from there on moves as much as the factional politics in the party eventually shapes up. And to win these polls, the BJP has to re-establish itself as powerful opposition, unconcerned about how long will MVA government but how it can force the government to improve the lives of people.

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