HEADLINE India's Modi faces revived opposition after setback in southern state

HEADLINE

India's Modi faces revived opposition after setback in southern state

Reuters

02:33, May 21, 2018

image.png

Rahul Gandhi, President of India's main opposition Congress party, addresses his supporters during a rally described as Jan Aakrosh or public anger at Ramlila ground in New Delhi, India, April 29, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

Indian opposition parties have joined forces to snatch power from the country’s ruling party in a big southern state, laying the stage for other such alliances in a direct challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid next year.

A coalition of Congress and a regional group said on Sunday they will establish a government in Karnataka state next week, after Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to prove its majority despite bagging more seats than any other party in a closely-fought election.Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party - which has struggled to make any major political inroads since Modi stormed to power four years ago - said his party will rally regional groups into a common front against Modi.

“I am very proud that the opposition has stood together and defeated the BJP, and we will continue to do so,” said Gandhi.

Karnataka, with a population of 66 million, was the first major state this year to elect an assembly, and will be followed by three more before the general election in 2019.

Political strategists say polls in Karnataka, home to India’s “Silicon Valley” Bengaluru, which was previously known as Bangalore, were seen as a key test of Modi’s popularity but the final outcome highlights the threats he faces from a united opposition are much bigger than anticipated.

“Formation of this coalition is a platform for an anti-BJP alliance for the next year,” said Sandeep Shastri, a political scientist at Bengaluru’s Jain University.

“Any shortfall in other states will further consolidate anti-BJP forces.”

Karnataka’s state’s governor last week allowed Modi’s party to form a government, even as it became clear that with only 104 seats the Hindu nationalist BJP trailed the opposition alliance, which has at least 115 seats in the 225-member assembly. That decision prompted Modi’s rivals to turn to the Supreme Court.

A coalition of Congress and a regional group said on Sunday they will establish a government in Karnataka state next week, after Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to prove its majority despite bagging more seats than any other party in a closely-fought election.Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party - which has struggled to make any major political inroads since Modi stormed to power four years ago - said his party will rally regional groups into a common front against Modi.

“I am very proud that the opposition has stood together and defeated the BJP, and we will continue to do so,” said Gandhi.

Karnataka, with a population of 66 million, was the first major state this year to elect an assembly, and will be followed by three more before the general election in 2019.

Political strategists say polls in Karnataka, home to India’s “Silicon Valley” Bengaluru, which was previously known as Bangalore, were seen as a key test of Modi’s popularity but the final outcome highlights the threats he faces from a united opposition are much bigger than anticipated.

“Formation of this coalition is a platform for an anti-BJP alliance for the next year,” said Sandeep Shastri, a political scientist at Bengaluru’s Jain University.

“Any shortfall in other states will further consolidate anti-BJP forces.”

Karnataka’s state’s governor last week allowed Modi’s party to form a government, even as it became clear that with only 104 seats the Hindu nationalist BJP trailed the opposition alliance, which has at least 115 seats in the 225-member assembly. That decision prompted Modi’s rivals to turn to the Supreme Court.

Jha said Congress’ spirit ahead of the 2019 polls was that of “necessary political accommodation” when it comes to forming alliances to stop Modi.

BJP leader Seshadri Chari said no opposition alliance will be able to stop Modi. “BJP will emerge as the single largest party (in 2019) with a majority”.

Modi remains by far the most popular politician in India and his approval rankings far outweigh Gandhi, who is the fifth-generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

U.S.-based research agency Pew released a survey in November that showed nearly nine out of 10 Indians held a favourable opinion of Modi.  

On Sunday, Indian newspapers carried front-page headlines highlighting Modi’s loss, a rare sight of late in Indian politics: The BJP and its allies rule 21 of India’s 29 states currently, up from seven they ruled in 2014.

“BJP loses vote of overconfidence,” said the Indian Express newspaper’s front page headline.


Related Stories

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy to comply with the latest laws and regulations. The updated policy explains the mechanism of how we collect and treat your personal data. You can learn more about the rights you have by reading our terms of service. Please read them carefully. By clicking AGREE, you indicate that you have read and agreed to our privacy policies

Agree and continue