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Lockdown on politics ends

In a democracy the government must do its job and the opposition has the responsibility of holding the elected government to account.

Kalyani Shankar | New Delhi |

As we emerge from the Coronavirus lockdowns, it is politics as usual. The pandemic has put out of limelight all political issues but now parties are slowly getting back to their political games after the lockdown exit. This is borne out by the serious attempts of poaching on legislators of other parties to get more seats in the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections and also preparations for the October-November Bihar polls.

Rajya Sabha biennial elections are scheduled for June 19 and Delhi Municipal corporation mayoral elections are to be held on June 24. For the past four months, major political parties including the BJP and the Congress were busy in their Covid relief works keeping aside politics. Lockdown was a hindrance to politicians, as it denied them free movement.

They were resigned to reach out to their supporters through virtual meetings and social media but this is not the same as physical contact. The Opposition had stopped all protests, dharnas and street demonstrations against the government on many important issues like the CAA for the past three months and were forced to posture publicly that they were cooperating with the government on the Covid strategy.

The criticisms, if any, were really muted. Now it is business as usual. That is why one hears of defections, resort politics, toppling games etc. Even before the lockdown was lifted completely, the two major political parties – the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress – had a dress rehearsal in organising huge virtual rallies to reach out to people this month.

They now believe in digital reach as gone are the days of physical presence of lakhs of people who come on their own or are brought to fill up space and hear their leaders. BJP President J.P. Nadda has been active in energising the party by interacting with MPs, legislators, office bearers and state units. The party machinery is also geared up in view of the upcoming Bihar polls.

Recently, Home Minister Amit Shah had addressed a huge virtual rally to kick off the Bihar campaign. A core team is strategizing the poll campaign via social media – Facebook and You tube. The Congress Party too is catching up with the BJP. Because of the Covid-19 crisis it was not possible for the opposition to critique the government though there are many issues like the economy, migrant crisis, health preparedness etc., which need to be raised.

The Congress has launched the ‘Speak India ’ campaign recently led by its party president Sonia Gandhi. As part of the campaign, Gandhi presented a list of demands before the Modi government,; these included an immediate transfer of Rs 10,000 to the poor, and a monthly transfer of Rs 7,500 for six months. According to the party media head R S Surjewala this was a record virtual meeting in which about 10 lakh people participated.

Sonia Gandhi has also been holding virtual meetings with her senior party leaders, state unit presidents and others to chalk out the party’s programme. Sonia Gandhi also held a virtual meeting with the other 22 opposition parties recently to chalk out a strategy to take on the government. Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi has not only been holding interactions with experts and Nobel laureates but has also addressed press conferences.

But what should be worrying are the alleged toppling games being played in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The Congress claims that the BJP is poaching on its legislators in view of the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls and the party has taken to resort politics to keep the flock together. West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banejree has been having a running battle with the Centre on many issues.

Mamata has asked the legislators to reach out to masses with accurate facts, figures and the truth, for which guidelines would be given. Intensifying the fight, Union Home Minister Amit Shah made a no-holds barred attack against the Mamata Banerjee government at a virtual rally from New Delhi recently.

The Left parties are also trying to revive their activities, resuming protests and dharnas on various issues. The CPI -M proposes to hold countrywide protests on June 16, demanding cash transfers and free food grains to the poor, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury recently announced. Other regional leaders like DMK chief Stalin have also taken to street protests on various issues. The political voices are getting shriller.

There is nothing wrong in resuming political activities, as sooner or later the issues have to be addressed. In a democracy the government must do its job and the opposition has the responsibility of holding the elected government to account. But while doing so, they must keep the public interest as their focus and not politicking. In a time of crisis what the country needs is ways to tackle the pandemic. Politics can always wait.