Opposition to stitch up state-specific alliances to fight BJP

Determined to unseat Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government, the opposition is contemplating to play to its full strength

In a move that could potentially determine the outcome of next year general elections to Lok Sabha the opposition parties are contemplating to stitch up state specific electoral alliances in seven states that accounts for 250 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha.

Determined to unseat Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government, the opposition is contemplating to play to its full strength and not to pitch the upcoming Parliamentary polls as a Presidential-style poll.

Another suggestion that has came up for discussion among the leaders of opposition parties is that a collective leadership would bring parties together against the BJP in each state  to counter Modi with a strong face in each state.

The principle opposition Congress party has floated the idea of state-specific alliances. The states that have been identified for opposition alliance are namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.

If BJP is checked in these states, it would play a vital role in determining the outcome of the next Lok Sabha poll that could go against the ruling NDA. Currently, the BJP and its allies hold major share of parliamentary seats in these crucial states.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections  a vertical split within the opposition ranks had played a major  role in BJP’s victory. The good signs of opposition unity were witnessed when unlike in the past, the Congress took a lead in the forging the state-specific alliances leaving aside the supremacy of the Congress party for being the largest Party among the opposition ranks.

The Congress is an all-India party. It can never be isolated. The question is to have an anti-BJP front. It has to be state-specific. The BJP polled 31 percent votes in Parliamentary elections and they claimed that they have a national mandate, which is not true, “said senior Congress leader Kamal Nath.

The efforts to bring opposition parties together on one platform have gained ground with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Telengana chief minister holding parleys with the leaders of the regional parties who are out of the any of the two national level alliances headed by BJP and Congress. The two chief ministers along with leaders of the Samajwadi Party, BSP, JD (S) and other smaller regional outfits are engaged in hectic talks to ensure a one-to-one contest against the BJP-led NDA in the upcoming polls.

There are backroom channels. So there is no question of reservations.  Let us see if it will be an anti-Modi, anti-BJP contest. Everything has to be state-specific. Like in West Bengal it has to be very different from Haryana. Similarly, Kerala has to be different from Tamil Nadu,” Nath said in an interview.

The Congress has mooted the idea of state-specific alliance for two reasons; one is to keep the leadership issue open till the results come out and secondly not to impose Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate in case the opposition succeeds in mustering the magic number in the lower House of Parliament as some of the leaders of regional parties have expressed their reservations about Rahul Gandhi as a consensus leader of the opposition.

The previous Parliamentary elections fought in 2014 changed the political landscape of the country as after more than two decades a single party attained the majority in the Lok Sabha. The reason was the projection of Narendra Modi by an alliance of media and corporate world as a new political leader who has the guts to get India rid of all problems.

It was a Presidential-style election in a country whose polity and society is plural. A Parallel was drawn between Modi and Congress scion Rahul Gandhi portraying Rahul as an inefficient and reluctant politician, that worked and the saffron party swept in most of Indian states crushing its rivals and won 18 assembly elections subsequently.

However, the popularity graph of Prime Minister Modi has witnessed a decline over the years as he failed in fulfilling the promises he had made to the people during his campaign. The BJP lost most of the Parliamentary by-elections held during four years of his tenure. The campaign against Modi and his party got a boost when one of its ally Telugu Desam Party parted company and another old ally Shiv Sena started adopting anti-BJP postures.

Similarly, in the northern states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where BJP is in power for last two and half decades a strong anti-incumbency is causing problems for ruling party. In Rajasthan the ruling BJP is all set to suffer electoral debacle owing to a strong anti-incumbency wave.

The BJP is unlikely to repeat its stellar performance of winning 282 seats in 2014. However, the performance of Congress in 100 seats covering states like Gujarat, MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where the grand old party is in a direct contest with the its arch rival BJP is to be watched. The Congress party currently has a clear edge over its rival in these states. However, any infighting within the Congress could prove fatal for the party.

Another tough task ahead for the Congress is to make all its allies agree on a common program because in the event of state-specific poll understanding, it would be very difficult for them to agree on a common programme for elections on state relating issues. However, there are some issues like secularism, foreign and economic policies that can help to keep them together. In any case, the post election situation is all set to be challenging for both the alliances. The Congress will have to come up with solutions to address the contradictions in states where it is pitted with Left and other smaller and regional parties.

In order to achieve its target of unseating Modi, the Congress will need to make sacrifice and also willingness to step back and accommodate smaller, regional players in bringing together an alliance of opposition parties.

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