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Will the `Modi versus rest' theory work for the opposition in 2019 general election?
Post BJPs incredible win in UP and Uttarakhand, many senior opposition leaders have either expressed helplessness or proposed for a grand coalition against Modi-led BJP in 2019.

Mani Shankar Ayer recently said that all opposition parties must unite to defeat Narendra Modi in 2019. JDU spokespersons Pawan Verma and KC Tyagi have also advocated for an alternative front led by Nitish Kumar. They have proposed a Mahagathbandhan as was successfully experimented with in Bihar Assembly election. TMC's Mamata Banerjee is also interested in a coalition with AAP at par with the mind-set of other parties.

However, many including Yogendra Yadav have already warned against such a coalition in the line of Modi versus rest, citing the 1971 general election which was fought in somewhat a similar manner of Indira versus rest, where Indira Gandhi-led Congress (R) won 350 seats decimating the opposition securing 43.68 per cent vote share.

National Democratic Front led by Moraraji Desai of Congress (O) just got 51 seats. Here let me remind that Indian National Congress was divided during that period. Indira Gandhi-led Congress was called Congress (R) and Moraraji Desai-led Congress had become Congress (O). Later on, Indira-led Congress was renamed as Congress (I) and under Sonia Gandhi's leadership, Congress was once again rechristened as the Indian National Congress after Jagajivan Ram-led INC merged with Congress (I). However, the point to be noted is that Indira Gandhi got a huge mandate winning 350 seats when the electoral equation was Indira versus rest.

There are also some other similarities. Indira had used her famous slogan: "Main garibi hatao bol rahi hun, lekin woh Indira hatao bol rahe hain" (I say remove poverty but they say remove Indira). Prime Minister Modi is now saying: "Main bhrashtachar hatao bol raha hun, lekin woh Modi hatao bol rahe hain" (I say remove corruption, they say remove Modi". Thus, Yogendra Yadav has a point here.

But some of my friends say that we should not forget the 1977 general election which was also fought with Indira versus rest but where Indira Gandhi was completely routed. My point is simple that the 1977 situation was completely different. People of India (especially north India) were against the imposed emergency. But is such a situation presently prevailing in the country? No.

Yes, if Modi imposes an emergency rule one fine day, then he would probably lose heavily in the 2019 general election irrespective of whether there is a united front against him or not. However, I don't think that Narendra Modi will ever make such a cardinal mistake.

Let us understand that if at all there's a united front, how it will affect Modi-led BJP's performance in 2019. To assess this, let us ignore the states where there is a direct contest between Congress and BJP because that will not offer any advantage for the united front. Also let us ignore states like Odisha and Telangana, because united front or not, there will be no change as regional influential/ruling party would be equidistant from both Congress and BJP.

Let's also ignore Tamil Nadu where neither BJP nor Congress have any presence. Thus, if one party goes with the united front then the other party will have to join NDA. Thus, as per my assessment, the Mahagathbandhan will only be effective in two states that are UP and Bihar. But then, there are two tricky states like Maharashtra and Bengal.

In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena is likely to oppose BJP. But the question is, whether it will join Congress? If yes, will NCP be in the same united front? In case NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena join hands, will their voter base amalgamate?

The point here is that like BJP and Congress, there is also animosity between NCP and Shiv Sena. So, how will this BJP versus rest work there? In West Bengal too, will there be a coalition between Left, TMC and Congress? If yes, will Kerala also see a coalition between the Left and Congress? Left was almost decimated in Bengal because of a coalition with Congress. That means that the coalition between Congress and Left didn't result in addition of voter base although Congress became the beneficiary, whereas the Left sustained huge loss.

In Uttar Pradesh, it's likely that SP, BSP and Congress may forge a united alliance against BJP-led NDA. Theoretically, the mathematics adds to their voter base close to fifty per cent. But will there be any addition really? Because of minority vote bank politics, Mayawati lost non-Jatav Dalits and SP lost non-Yadav OBCs. If SP and BSP unite, I don't think there will be any addition because BSP's Dalit consolidation was a result of enmity between Yadavs and Dalits. Thus, if Yadavs remain in the coalition fold then Dalits will leave the coalition and join the NDA.

In Bihar also, RJD, JDU and Congress vote base adds up to 48 per cent. But one shouldn't forget that Bihar has around 7-8 per cent of youth voters who support both Modi and Nitish. They would prefer to see Nitish in the state and Modi at the Centre. Thus, in general election, if those 7-8 per cent voters support Modi then the united front theory becomes less effective.

But let's consider that there will be some loss in UP and Bihar for the BJP. But the way BJP is expanding its foot print, it will more than make up its numbers from other places/states.

And then, what would be the counter narrative of this grand coalition? Will it be demonetisation?

TMC called for a united alliance day before yesterday post the High Court order for CBI probe in to the Narada sting tapes case. So will not the grand coalition be viewed as a coalition of the corrupt?

That's why I agree with Yogendra Yadav that dubbing 2019 general election as Modi versus rest with a negative counter narrative, will always help Modi to get back with stronger mandate.

What the opposition needs now is to try to display some positive behaviour so as to diminish the negative perception on them and build a credible counter narrative too so as to counter Narendra Modi's narrative. But, until then, united or not, Modi's Juggernaut will keep on rolling.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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