Indian Decade

UPA Unscathed By Protests

The All India Strike, far from demonstrating a unified opposition, could actually strengthen the UPA.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government came out unscathed from a day long strike on Thursday. What was touted to be a major offensive against the government’s recent economic reforms by opposition parties from the left and right, turned out to be what NDTV termed “lukewarm.” Indeed, the strike exposed disunity among opposition parties and a lack of cohesiveness in taking on the Singh-led government.

Emboldened by the poor response to the strike, the government went ahead with its decision to allow FDI in the retail sector, one of the major issues provoking the opposition parties.

Much attention today was devoted to the joint demonstration by the leftist and rightist parties at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. For the main opposition party, Bhartiya Janata Partry (BJP) it was supposed to be a wonderful opportunity to present a unified opposition against the Congress led government.

But it was the Samajwadi Party (SP), a regional party, which stole the thunder from BJP and managed to present a united  front of opposition parties, widely called Third Front, with the Left and other regional groupings thereby isolating the rightist BJP.  Both the BJP-led group and the SP-led front held their own separate demonstrations, exposing how divided opposition is against the ruling alliance.  

When I reached the venue at 11 a.m., the time when the protest was supposed to start, there were no leaders present save for a few members from the traders’ union. In fact, people from the media outnumbered the gathering. Not much had changed when the senior leaders of the BJP and the left had arrived two hours later. This was evident from the fact that the different political leaders spent their time addressing the media, not the people.

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The impact of the protest was also not visible in the major markets of the national capital. They remained open despite the call from the traders’ association to observe a shutdown.