BENGALURU: The unifying efforts of opposition parties over the last few weeks to form an alliance to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi and NDA brings back to memory the days of 1977 when the entire spectrum of opposition parties had come together under the banner of Janata Party to defeat Indira Gandhi-led Congress.
Parallels can be drawn between the new alliance of 26 parties, termed the Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A), and the then Janata Party that took India by storm four-and-a-half decades ago. Then, it was a battle to defeat Indira Gandhi, who had declared an Emergency and put political leaders behind bars, including Moraji Desai and Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP who was a great force behind the movement.
She had also cracked down on non-Congress governments. The Bharatiya Jan Sangh, Bharatiya Lok Dal, Congress (O) and Socialist Party were among the political entities that came together and defeated the Indira-led Congress by a huge margin.
Non-Congress parties had carried out an electoral battle with a mission to end dictatorship and restore democracy. Similarly, the I.N.D.I.A grouping too aims to end, what it calls, Modi’s authoritarianism and his idea of India. The opposition parties that have come together on the common platform want to be the voice of the people and protect the true spirit of the Constitution. Opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD, JDU, DMK, CPI(M), CPI, Shiv Sena, NCP and others, allege that there is an undeclared emergency in the country and point to rising unemployment, inflation, infringing on the freedom of the press and targeting non-BJP-ruled states.
AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge expressed confidence that choosing a leader for the alliance and seat sharing will not be a big issue, but it is not that simple, considering the big contradictions among various alliance partners in their respective states.
The alliance has to overcome a few hurdles if it wants to repeat 1977. The leaders, who are meeting again in Mumbai, have to thrash out contradictions, discuss seat sharing in non-Congress-ruled states and take hard decisions, instead of dragging their feet and glossing over individual ambitions. The Janata Party then too had buried differences under the carpet to achieve a larger objective and faltered midway.
If I.N.D.I.A has to be successful, it has to do well in Hindi-speaking states other than in South India if it wants to stop Modi from making a hat-trick. In 1977, the Janata Party had ensured that Congress was wiped out in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh.
VK Natraj, former director, of Madras Institute of Development Studies, pointed out that the new alliance does not have a leader of JP’s stature or influence. The new grouping may make an impact, but not to the anticipated scale. BJP will, however, pay a price for its mistakes, he added.
Asked whether the opposition alliance is keen to repeat 1977, AICC spokesperson Pawan Khera said that every era has a different model and claimed that I.N.D.I.A will do 1977 to unseat Modi. He said Modi and BJP are jittery as people are against the government and its anti-people policies.