Lucknow, Mar 19 (IANS): What Rahul Gandhi says, the BJP magnifies.
From his alleged anti-India remarks in London to the length of his beard and the T-shirt he wore during his yatra -- the BJP takes note of it all and TV debates hover on the issues.
And it is not entirely without reason. The BJP wants the 2024 Lok Sabha campaign to turn into a Modi versus Rahul battle where Modi will undoubtedly emerge as the winner.
All other opposition leaders, meanwhile, can bear the political winter for some more years and wait for their spring.
The BJP strategy is clearly to divert public attention from core issues and turn the polls into a personality-oriented campaign.
It does not matter that the Congress is in disarray in most states because the BJP wants to prop up Rahul as its adversary, instead of taking on the party as a whole.
Other opposition parties, meanwhile, are fretting on their own turf.
For instance, the Samajwadi Party raised objections to verses in Ramcharitmanas and tried to give a definite casteist colour to the issue.
The BJP has now retaliated by announcing a Ramayana recitation in all districts of Uttar Pradesh during Navratri, later this month.
The battle was fought by Akhilesh and won by the BJP at the state level because not a single national leader of the BJP even took cognisance of the same.
A dejected Akhilesh has no other option but to welcome the Ramayana recitation and even demand a higher allocation of funds for it.
Other issues raised by the opposition like inflation, law and order, police atrocities and corruption have fallen by the wayside and it is now a case of what the BJP wants, the BJP gets.
Opposition leaders are apparently too afraid of even talking about the situation.
A SP spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained, "I have been booked in a dozen odd cases for my statement in a TV debate. I would prefer to be cautious now."
He added, "The media plays the BJP tune and what the opposition says or does is completely blanked out. In any case opposition parties face a trust deficit and people tend to believe only what Modi says."
Though the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party reiterate their commitment to defeating the BJP but they fight shy of forging an alliance with the Congress, the only national political player which could offer an alternative to the BJP.
And the reasons are more than evident.
Both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were born from the vote base of the Congress -- the BSP with Dalits and the SP with Muslims.
Muslims, Dalits, along with Brahmins, were once the mainstay of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.
They fear that an alliance with the Congress could make these vote banks shift back to the Congress.
Talking about the Rahul Gandhi factor, political leaders feel that Rahul Gandhi is apparently a threat for regional satraps who feel that they would be overshadowed if Rahul was asked to head any forum against the BJP.
"It is a question of ego and not issues," said one leader.
A senior political analyst said, "Whether it is Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Akhilesh Yadav or Mayawati - they all aspire to be national leaders even though their boundaries do not extend beyond their state. Unless these leaders put their egos aside and bring in the Congress, the divided opposition will pave the way for the BJP again in 2024."
He stated, "Moreover, opposition leaders have also seen what happened to Uddhav Thackeray and the Aam Aadmi Party. They are obviously wary of going beyond a point to fight the BJP. Even a firebrand leader like Mayawati has receded into her safe house. What is happening is only shadow boxing."
The Congress in Uttar Pradesh has almost accepted the fact that their night is far from over.
"We can only sing 'Woh subah kabhi to aayegi .. but no one knows when. Our 'Raj Bhavan gherao' programme ends at the gate of the party office and the leaders do not even talk about strategies for 2024. Rahul Gandhi also seems to have washed his hands off UP and left it for sister Priyanka who has not come here since the past one year. We can only watch how the drama unfolds in the coming months without being a player," said a former Congress MLA.
A BJP functionary said, "A divided opposition suits us perfectly - just like the fable about the woodcutter's sons being unable to break a bundle of sticks tied together. These parties have no common programme or ideology and are driven by giant-sized egos. Uttar Pradesh will, once again, catapult the BJP back to power in 2024."