Governments in India go all out to win elections. They collect and spend money. They divert resources to give free things. They buy votes on a large scale and also micro-manage elections. Power is everything in India. Once an US President leaves office, he does not even stay in Washington. They leave for their hometowns. But in India ,once you get a position, you never leave Delhi. In fact, ex=Presidents and ex-Prime ministers also get free housing, staff, etc.
In Mexico, the rule for ex-presidents is very strict .They can serve 1 term of 6 years and after that term ,they get a job as an ambassador so that they are out of the country and not seen.
An opposition party must makes it own rules and devise new strategies. If opposition parties follow the trap laid by governments, then they will perish.
Never contest by-elections unless there are compulsions :
In recent history , no central or state government loses by-elections . They go all out and spend huge sums of money, misuse the government machinery , bribe voters and induce other party workers in all ways. The voters are also ready to be seduced since they feel that as the government is already in power, why become its enemies? They can get big personal benefits also from government. When an opposition party contests a by-election, unless miracles occur, it will lose .The government then says that the opposition is un-popular and de-moralize the opposition.
- Mayavati never contested by-elections from 2002 when Mulayam Singh became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh . From her experience, Mayavati said that sitting government will defeat the opposition and then boast of its popularity. Further ,Mayavathi also said that her BSP will not contest Municipal or Panchayat –Zilla Parishad elections. The idea was if you give 40 people tickets in a municipality, then 400 who did not get tickets become your enemy. Moreover, a Municipal chairman these days is without prestige and cannot command people. Mayavati followed this rule strictly upto 2007 and captured power in Uttar Pradesh in 2007. She got defeated in 2012 because she gave poor government.
- In Karnataka, the Congress Government of Siddaramiah is going strong. The BJP with over-confidence, contested two by-elections in April, 2017 at Nanjugud and Gundlupet. The BJP fielded very powerful candidates. But Congress won as Chief Minister Siddaramiah used better strategy and got rival Deve Gowda to avoid contesting the elections. Now, experts say that BJP cannot win the State in 2018. The BJP made a mistake of contesting the by-elections. It should have let them go in a low profile way. It could have put up Independents and played down the election.
Why Opposition parties contest by-elections?
a. One argument is that Cadre will run away if the party does not fight the by-election. This is an old argument. In fact, the cadre will run away if the Opposition party loses the by-election. The government will tempt them that their party will never come to power. On the contrary, the cadre will be happy that they are not tested. The cadre also does not like fights they lose.
b. Another argument is that the government will say we are afraid. How does it matter what the government says ? In fact, governments will be happy to compromise with oppositions on by-elections so that they are saved the headaches and worries. The opposition party can say it will not contest to save public money, etc. There are hundreds of good arguments .
- c. If the opposition party does not want to give an easy time to the government and yet give a good fight, it can always put up a strong Independent or someone with great moral stature. Whether the candidate wins or loses, it will be worrisome for the government which will have to cheapen itself by fighting the election and yet the opposition party will not lose sleep.
Indian political parties should learn from greatest Chinese thinkers of 2300 years ago. The famous Chinese general Wang Chien said “Do not overtax your soldiers Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength. He declined all invitations to fight and remained strictly on the defensive. He won victories with his own tactics.
The Chinese and our ancient Chankya follow the same ideas; “War is based on deception. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
Sun Tzu was a famous Chinese general who lived in China 2600 years ago. Sun Tzu gave most importance to surprise in war and politics. He said “Those who are skilled in producing surprises will win . When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; ” .
Many readers may ask why I quote Chinese philosophers. Well, modern day China still follows their every word. China is still ahead of the world in many ways.
Dr P. Pulla Rao is a Socio-political and Economic analyst