Indian opposition faces make-or-break elections

The upcoming general elections in India is going to be unique.

Days ago, in an unprecedented show of strength, leaders representing 23 political parties from Jammu and Kashmir to Tamil Nadu shared a dais at a massive rally in Kolkata and joined hands to defeat just one man — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) he leads.

The 2019 elections thus become a fight between the opposition and Modi. However, the opposition parties seem to have unknowingly walked into the trap set by themselves. If Modi still emerges victorious in the upcoming polls, BJP is going to rule India for a long time.

The Kolkata unity rally was a symbol without substance as leaders chanted ‘Modi hatao’ (‘Remove Modi’) in their speeches. None of them spoke about what they can offer to voters and how they can change their lives.

The opposition also failed to project a prime ministerial candidate. They said that would be decided after the election results are out.

But the opposition had at least two strong prime ministerial aspirants: Rahul Gandhi of Congress and Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Both skipped the unity rally for unknown reasons. Instead, they sent their representatives.

Of all the leaders who addressed the rally, only Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party (SP) dropped a hint on the future prime minister if the opposition wins the elections. Yadav said someone from Uttar Pradesh, his home state which sends 80 representatives to Parliament, will occupy that post.

He did not name the individual, maybe to prevent the outbreak of a leadership battle on the very same dais the leaders pledged unity. 

Yadav’s announcement came days after his party formed an alliance with Mayawati’s BSP in UP keeping Congress out of the alliance but leaving the door ajar for them to walk in at a later stage.

Now Yadav and Mayawati may have to keep the alliance door wide open as Rahul has turned the tables on them by suddenly inducting his charismatic sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into politics.

On Wednesday, he named Priyanka as Congress secretary to organise election campaigns and inspire the cadres and voters in eastern UP. When media asked Rahul why his sister was given such a plum post, he said she is a young and capable leader.

Congress cadres, who were fearing a crushing defeat in Uttar Pradesh as in 2014 polls, are now energised and happy, reports say.

Reacting to Priyanka’s entry into politics, most opposition parties including SP said BJP finds itself cornered at least in UP where a triangular contest is going to eat into its votes.

For Priyanka, the challenge begins when she takes over eastern UP which had elected BJP leaders like Modi from Varanasi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur in 2014 polls.

Indian voters have matured. Instead of allowing themselves to be carried away by the charisma of a new leader, they will be reflecting on how an existing government changed their lives for the better or worse as they head for polling stations to cast their votes.

Priyanka’s political plunge is seen as a desperate act by Congress to win the national elections after Rahul failed as a leader. Rahul, his mother Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka’s husband Robert Vadra and several other leaders face serious corruption charges. If a Congress-led alliance comes back to power, the government may be able to cancel all cases against its leaders on the ground that they were trumped up charges.

Congress has a clear strategy to win the election by targeting Modi, a hardworking and committed prime minister with an unblemished record. They traduced him and questioned his government’s progressive steps to bring back black money, get financial fugitives extradited, streamline taxes, create jobs, ensure health, education and basic needs for the poor, empower women and help farmers.

Congress lied on Rafale fighter jets deal and kept blaming Modi by ignoring the detailed explanation separately provided by Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament.

Rahul failed to answer questions posed by the two ministers. Instead, he allowed Congress MPs to fly paper planes in the House when Jaitley was giving a point-by-point rebuttal to his charges over Rafale deal.

This week, a senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal attended a dubious event in London where a self-proclaimed Indian hacker Syed Shuja based in the US came on Skype to tell viewers that Indian voting machines can be hacked and the 2014 election won by Modi’s BJP party was rigged.

The hacker appeared on Skype with his face covered, gave conflicting claims and lied on where he worked previously. He talked about political murders that never took place and embarrassed even the journalists who organised the event.

The chief organiser of the London event is said to have links with Congress.

Most Indians, the Election Commission (EC) and the federal government believe the London event was staged to insult Indian democracy and mock the voting process which has won universal praise.

The EC has asked Delhi police to register a case against the hacker and quickly investigate the allegations.

Indian voters are deeply disturbed by such events and they will keep them mind while casting their votes in the upcoming elections.