India today has moved from JP Narayan to JP Morgan: Can Mulayam find an answer to that?

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Can Janata Parivar succeed against Modi?
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has launched a fresh initiative to counter Narendra Modi and his party both within the Parliament and without. The former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh recently met top leaders of various regional parties like the RJD, JD(U), JD(S) and INLD and others. Former Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar even said after the meeting that there could be a merger of all these Janata parties to put up a united opposition against the saffron camp.

The development reminds us of the 1970s when a similar effort was made to stop late prime minister Indira Gandhi from continuing with her superiority run in the Indian democracy and it finally paid off in 1977 when the Janata government replaced the Congress for the first time at the Centre.

The parties have come together keeping in mind the assembly elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh over the next two-and-a-half years. The SP, JD(U) and RJD, three of the regional powers from these two states, were humiliated in their own backyard in this year's Lok Sabha election. In Bihar, the anti-Modi forces succeeded to bag a consolation victory in the 10 bypolls held in August and they now want to follow the same model on the national stage.

But how much successful can this plan to stop Narendra Modi, the first non-Congress prime minister to head a majority government, be?

To start with, each of these leaders who have come together to fight Modi jointly are well past their prime. They were known to be followers of leaders like JP Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia who had popularised ideological battle against dominance and inequality but do these leaders have any legacy today that can influence an entire generation of youngsters to emulate and throw a challenge to Modi's political superiority?

Ageing leaders who have little legacy unlike JP or Lohia

Of the three big leaders of this platform, Mulayam Singh Yadav is an ageing and tainted leader who is clearly fighting a battle for survival (his party could win just five parliamentary seats in UP) while Lalu Prasad is a politician of the past. After losing power to arch-rival Nitish Kumar in Bihar in 2005 and convicted in the fodder scam last year, the 66-year-old RJD chief is certainly not the face of India's future.

The third, Nitish Kumar, is still a face in Indian politics that holds weight but after the break-up with the BJP and the poor show in the Lok Sabha election (JD-U could manage just 2 of the 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar), Nitish has a lot of ground to cover and his patching up with Lalu in the bypolls is an indication. The others are not as effective as these three but the best men of the alternative platform are not in the best of health.

2014 is not 1970s and there is no anti-incumbency yet

Next is the scope of action of this new political grouping. The current government of Modi is by no means comparable to that of Indira Gandhi in the 1970s. Mrs Gandhi was in power for 11 years when she was finally hit by the anti-incumbency wave. The two dark years of Emergency in 1975-77 had hit the final nail in the coffin.

In 2014, Modi has no such problem at all. He is just six months into the office and so far, the BJP has put up good shows in various state elections. Yes, there are talks about Modi's performance in economy but nothing serious at the moment.

With the decimation of the Congress, there is also no dominant Opposition in the Parliament, which makes the task of the scattered groups to challenge Modi all the more difficult. The Janata platform has initially picked issues like black money, price rise and employment to take on Modi but those are too rudimentary to defeat a regime which looks robust at this moment.

Today's India has moved away from JP Narayan to JP Morgan: Can the ‘socialist bloc' deal with that?

The Janata Parivar, the constituents of which have undergone multiple fragmentation throughout only to nurture vote-bank politics, has not kept pace with politico-economic changes. The thrust of the leaders of the Janata school of politics has mainly been social empowerment of the backward people and not the constituency made up of the urban middle-class.

Modi's constituency, on the other hand, is propelled by the empowered middle class of the 21st century and this makes it difficult for the Janata Parivar to lay claim on Modi's vote-bank.

The difference between the 'socialist bloc' and Modi will be the factor of liberalised India, which was not the case during the time of Indira Gandhi.

Does the 'socialist bloc' have the means to deal with the right-leaning India?

The Mulayams, Lalus and Nitish Kumars have excelled because they successfully knit together loyal constituencies by taking full advantage of the loopholes in the Congress's idea of secularism, its weakening base and the consequent scope for horizontal democratisation, economic stagnation of backward sections and the decades-long anti-incumbency. Modi's government doesn't 'fulfil' many of these criteria and hence makes the Janata Parivar's preparation look futile.

Just projecting the battle for survival as an ideological battle between the Right and the Left doesn't justify Mulayams' cause. For the new-age Indian electorate, fake ideological battles matter secondary to stability and governance and all the three veteran leaders of the Janata platform have been tested on this.

Nitish Kumar was a close competitor to Modi till June 2013 but since then, it has been a tough journey for him. It will be a big ask for him now to stop the BJP from coming to power in Patna in 2015, forget stopping its influence spreading across the nation.

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