Challenge To Modi

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As 2019 national election draws nearer with every passing month, the opposition in the country doesn’t look as beleaguered as it did for the better part of the tenure of the Narendra Modi led government. Congress victory in three Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh  and that of the  TRS in Telengana has reinvigorated the opposition. This has dented the image of invincibility the  Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cultivated since his election to power in 2014. 

But the BJP still retains an edge and looks favourite to form the next government. Though opposition looks to have found its bearings but it has to go a long way before it gets counted as a competitor. The fact is that India’s larger secular opposition is still  fighting over scraps.  Congress president Rahul Gandhi may be a better challenger now, but there is no major pan-India leader in sight to take on  Modi. 

Thankfully the opposition’s project unity is gathering some momentum.   “United India Rally” organized by the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground on Saturday drew senior opposition figures from around the country including Dr Farooq Abdullah. But the opposition will have to make more substantive move to get together in the months to come to offer a more credible challenge.   It would be an uphill task for the opposition. The BJP in its current avatar will not only need the opposition unity but also an alternative ideological narrative. 

The saffron party offers a deft blend of ideology and a development rhetoric. – albeit, the latter has faded somewhat now due to the underperformance of the economy and the markets in the past two quarters. The BJP has Modi as an overarching leader. If the opposition fails to gets its act together, the BJP could even get a stronger majority than it did in 2014 – more so,  considering the Hindutva party’s all-encompassing electoral machinery. 

And when all else fails, the BJP could always fall back upon its staple divisive issues, the most potent of them raising the Muslim bogey to try and forge a monolithic Hindu vote bank. The strategy has been a factor in the rise of BJP as a national party, up from two seats in 1984 polls. Things can still turn around for the opposition and also for India if the opposition unites. A larger combination of the major parties at the national scale can halt the BJP’s march.

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