Opposition alliance: It won’t help if there is no PM face & alternative vision
Kolkata, Jan 21: A mega rally was held on Saturday in Kolkata where the Trinamool Congress, the ruling party of West Bengal, organised a show of strength of the Opposition by bringing together leaders and representatives of major anti-BJP parties. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee anchored the rally, named 'United India' to give the glimpse of a unity against Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the Lok Sabha election 2019.
The build-up to the 17th general elections has resembled that of the one in 1977 when the Congress lost power at the Centre for the first time and an alliance of five parties won to form a coalition government. It though did not last its full term and the Congress was back in power in 1980 and Indira Gandhi, who lost her office in 1977, was back and ruled till her assassination in 1984. This time, Indira has been replaced with Modi is what many observers are seeing.
It is true that there are similarities between the situations in 1977 and 2019 but it will be an exaggeration to say that the outcome of 2019 will be the same as that of 1977.
In 1977, Indira was unpopular; in 2019, Modi is not
First and foremost, it was Indira and her party who the countrymen wanted to get rid of in 1977 after the draconian emergency period. Indira's overdoing had transformed her popular image into one that people detested post emergency and they were kin to take revenge through democracy which they eventually did. In 2019, although the BJP has seen a rise of anti-incumbency and also lost in three key states in the last Assembly elections, one would not say that Prime Minister Modi himself is also at the receiving end.
There was no emergency in the Modi era even if the Opposition tries to convince the voters that there is one informal one. Even if the wave is not there, Modi is still a leader who has more popularity than anybody else in the country. It will not be easy for the Opposition alliance to topple him.
Opposition has no PM face, BJP has
Although the Opposition parties did their best to find a common platform for the anti-BJP sentiments to consolidate at the Kolkata rally, there was no official announcement of its prime ministerial candidate. The key issue has been deferred again but it is something that needs to be settled soonest. Indian general elections have always had individual faces and winning forces have reaped the most by projecting leaders than not.
The anti-Modi alliance also needs to arrive at a consensus on a PM face if it fancies a chance in the next Lok Sabha election. But the task is not easy which becomes evident when the leaders of the alliance either keep it for a later time or show that there is a disagreement over choosing the PM candidate. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been backed by some as the PM face but it is certainly not something that either Banerjee or BSP leader Mayawati or SP leader Akhilesh Yadav would want. The more the delay goes, the less credible will the Opposition look.
It's a bit too late for a the Opposition now
For the Opposition to win the election in 1977, the foundation had been laid by a towering figure called Jay Prakash Narayan since 1974 when he gave call for Total Revolution from Patna, Bihar. The man had taken a complete approach to link the Indira regime of the day with decay in public life. Even though the Janata Party government eventually failed to keep things together and fell the year after JP passed away, there was an ideological fight that the leader had waged then. In 2019, the alliance looks more like an instant and desperate move made a few months ahead of the election to derail the saffron chariot.
The goal is more like winning the election against Modi than presenting a better alternative narrative. It is very unlikely that the voters will be convinced just through criticising the Modi government and its policies and not by presenting before them the alternative. And one supposed time is very limited now to launch a comprehensive narrative covering diverse aspects to topple Modi.