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Can a united opposition keep Modi from winning again?


News Analysis |

Opposition parties in India seem all geared up for the upcoming general election with a power show in Kolkata, where 23 disparate parties announced an alliance against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The voluminous alliance against the incumbent Prime Minister may seem overkill but given the majority which BJP brought to parliament in last elections, it may seem a step in the right direction, especially when there is no leader to singlehandedly counter Modi’s persona on Indian political landscape. Prime Minister Modi has termed it as an alliance made up of money, nepotism, and power contrary to that of “people’s power” and “hearts” as BJP according to him.

“They have made an alliance with each other, but we have made an alliance with the 125 crore people… Our alliance is with their dreams and ambitions. We are committed to them, live for them and work for them… Many of those on that dais were either son of some big personality or trying to settle their son or daughter,” Modi said.

BJP’s 5 Years in Power

The Saffron party came into power with an overwhelming majority in 2014 elections with the slogan “Achee din aane waale hain” (Good days are coming). Over the years, the overall macroeconomic indicators have been healthy, carrying forward the trend of high economic growth since 2005.

It is precisely the reason that how unpopular he is that the party has announced that Rahul Gandhi would not be the candidate for Premiership if Congress wins, just ensuring people that it understands the public sentiment toward their leader.

But apart from that, there have been developments which have led the discontent among the masses about the overall performance. The lack of jobs, falling prices of agricultural commodities and rural wages, a tax reform that led to unemployment and a demonetization exercise that sapped liquidity are the most pressing consequences which Narendra Modi led BJP government have brought for the general people. Despite high economic growth, the fall of the rupee currency to record lows this year has led to a surge in prices of largely imported fuel, which is feeding into inflation. Nationwide protests have broken out because of the price rise.

Despite these facts, a survey shows that the Indian population is still willing to place their bet on the Modi and his “Vikas” (development) narrative. An online survey conducted by The Times of India, in which, as reported by the paper, nearly 0.8 million participated and an overwhelming majority of people have said to vote again for Modi. Though the BJP/NDA is expected to lose the considerable number of seats and might not enjoy the same simple majority, the scenario, at this point of time, where BJP is out of power dynamics of India for next four years seems highly unlikely.

Read more: India election results show nail-biting contest between BJP & Congress

Modi Vs Who?

As one of India’s popular yet controversial anchor Arnab Goswami, who hosts a prime time political talk show at Republic TV, likes to center much of his debates on the question, Modi Vs Who? the question is legitimate. Politics in the subcontinent is based more on political figures rather manifestos or potential which a political party might have toward policymaking. For instance, Congress, a party which has some of the brightest minds and intellectuals with the likes of Shashi Tharoor, does not have a single face to lead them against Modi.

In fact, Rahul Gandhi who comes from Nehru-Gandhi lineage and who took over Congress as the President in December 2017 has still not been able to establish himself as a national level leader. It is precisely the reason that how unpopular he is that the party has announced that Rahul Gandhi would not be the candidate for Premiership if Congress wins, just ensuring people that it understands the public sentiment toward their leader.

Read more: India’s Modi poised to win state elections despite falling economy?

Similarly, there is not a long queue of national level parties as most of them are limited to certain states and have their vote bank among certain ethnic belts. Despite BJP losing three key states elections recently, analysts think that the party is still strong enough to retain the government in the upcoming elections, though it might not be able to secure the majority it did back in 2014.