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Frustration gets the better of opposition politics

One of the most difficult challenges that confront political parties is to remain focused while in opposition. Successive defeats at the election polls not only lower the morale throughout the rank and file of the Party concerned, but also throw its leadership into question and doubt.

The snap resignation of David Shearer as the Leader of Labour, the main Opposition Party on August 22 demonstrated the turmoil that beleaguers politicians in this side of the political spectrum. He admitted having lost the confidence of his colleagues in the caucus, although some observers have said that he did not have the full backing of his MPs since he took charge of the painful role less than three years ago.

An analogy can be found in Bharatiya Janata Party (MP), India’s main Opposition Party, which has languished for almost ten years as a shadow of the Government, except that it has also been torn by differences, not only at the apex level but also in several States. The loss of its face in Karnataka, where it was routed at the recently held elections, is a case in point.

Labour and BJP may belong to opposite ideology – the former leaning left, while the latter is a right-wing moderate – but they share the same frustration of being out-performed by the main Party in power. Both countries have a national government put together by unlike-minded Parties and both have at times showed the fragility of their political wedding.

It is often said that the head lives in the clouds, while the feet are aware of the ground realities. On the same token, leaders of political parties are often oblivious of the feelings of ordinary members, and even less the sentiments of ordinary people.

That was how the scene was played out in both countries.

The lower-rung in Labour and BJP, especially the cadres that are in touch with the public wanted to change the leadership in order to regain public confidence and win the next general election. Curiously, both India and New Zealand are due to hold parliamentary elections next year.

BJP has started to look up to a charismatic and flamboyant leader in Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has a more mass and cadre based support than anyone in his Party. Labour Party in New Zealand is also looking for a similar leader.

Some may believe that both parties have had a stop-gap arrangement and that a new leader should be chosen soon to prepare for the next general election.

BJP has already commenced preparations with Mr Modi as a pivot on the race towards May 2014 general elections, while Labour is still looking for a leader and will hopefully find the ideal person on or before September 15, 2013.

Notwithstanding the change of guard, BJP and Labour should formalise arrangements with possible allies, since coalition is becoming the norm in many democracies.

BJP is ready for the game and will show its trump card to woo voters.

If Labour wants to change its fortunes in Beehive, it should come to terms with itself.

The time to do so is now.

Balaji Chandramohan is our Correspondent based in Delhi.

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