Why India's main opposition alliance is in disarray

 
In this photograph taken on January 6, 2006, India's Gujarat state Chief Minister Narender Modi (L) talks with Bihar state Chief Minister and senior Janata Dal United (JDU) leader, Nitish Kumar, during a conference in Hyderabad Nitish Kumar (right) believes Narendra Modi (left) is a polarising politician

The papers are calling it the end of "a 17-year-old marriage".

As far as political marriages go, the one between the regional Janata Dal (United) and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar appeared to be rock solid.

With 206 seats between them in the present 243-member assembly, the two parties had an overwhelming majority. The two share 32 of the 40 elected MPs Bihar sends to the lower house of parliament.

Led by JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar, the two-term government was also held up as a model of a constructive, pro-development coalition, which is not easily achieved in the fractious world of Indian politics. The JD(U) was also a key ally of the BJP-led main opposition alliance which goes by the name of National Democratic Alliance.

And now, suddenly, the marriage is over.

Mr Kumar's party pulled out of the alliance on Sunday, rattled over the appointment of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as head of the BJP's 2014 election campaign. A precursor, most believe, to his becoming the party's prime ministerial candidate.

Mr Modi is India's most controversial politician whom people like to love or loathe. On the one hand he is credited - some say in exaggeration - with making Gujarat one of India's most prosperous states. On the other hand he's accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in 2002 which left more than 1,000 dead.

"Secular" parties like JD(U) believe that aligning with Mr Modi's BJP will make them anathema to India's 180 million Muslims, whose votes can swing results in scores of seats. Muslims comprise 17% of Bihar's population. Mr Kumar feels that they will turn against his party if he co-habits with Mr Modi's BJP.

Listen to Mr Kumar's explanation justifying the split and you realise how Mr Modi is becoming a polarising political force even before the election campaign kicks off. Last week, party veteran LK Advani went into a sulk over Mr Modi's elevation, resigned from party posts and took back his resignation after much cajoling by the party.

"The BJP has entered a new era, which will be dominated by just one individual," Mr Kumar told The Times of India, without mentioning Mr Modi by name. "Everybody else has been tamed into submission and has become irrelevant, issues and ideology don't matter."

Strong words indeed, and Mr Kumar doesn't stop there.

He believes the "right to dissent" is being punished, presumably under Mr Modi's leadership in Gujarat and that critics "are being abused". "Is this democracy?" Mr Kumar wonders.

Mr Kumar believes the euphoria in the BJP rank and file over his elevation is "irrational exuberance" and doesn't reflect the public mood. The BJP believe Mr Modi is their best shot at regaining power in Delhi after nearly a decade in the political wilderness.

Time - and India's people - will tell who is right and who is wrong.

But what is clear is that Mr Modi is being seen as a more polarising politician than any of his peers and other leaders in his party.

According to one estimate, in only six out of 28 states and in the capital, Delhi, are elections fought directly between the Congress and the BJP, the two largest political parties in India.

With that in mind this is the question that many are asking: How will Mr Modi be able to attract allies in a fragmented polity?

 
Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 52.

    India must cease to exist - give all the states independence! This will solve all the corruptness and pandering to minorities and so on!!!!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 51.

    4 people living in a house HATE each other 24x7 for the past 3000 years (Caste system).
    What will Congress party do?
    BRIBE them (Reservations/NREGA/Aadhaar)
    What will BJP do?
    BULLY them (religious bigotry/Babri/Godhra riots)
    What will an Intellectual (Gorbachev) do?
    Give them their share of land/Independence and tell them to go and build their own nation (Perestroika/Communal Award)

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 50.

    It's so funny to watch this nonsense of 'secularism'! Jesus or Buddha or even MK Gandhi wasn't secular as a person but their actions were highly secular & exemplary. Then we have 'secular' criminals- politicians/bureaucrats/businessmen/'intellectuals' etc.

    Most of our politicians hardly know religion itself. We mostly follow rituals & superstitions in the name of religion- http://goo.gl/hVwSl

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 49.

    The long term solution for India lies ONLY with its people, whom they elect to govern (not rule).

    A country with "more than 80% corrupt" (mainly socio-political 'elites') people can never get a reasonably honest & able leader/party to govern.

    It'll be equally important- how CPM/I & BJP reform itself (to weed out opportunist, corrupt leaders) & how Kejriwal's AAP does in 2014, at least in Delhi.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 48.

    It's irrelevant if a liar, corrupt & violent person like Jinnah was secular or not, particularly as the head of a state.

    Pakistan's future was doomed from the day it was created on the basis of Islam with a person like Jinnah as its head. Brief prosperity was propped up by Western powers- mainly to fulfill its agenda in Afghanistan & with Russia. India got a raw deal for its pro-USSR policies.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 47.

    Any state with theocratic/autocratic/dynastic rule is bound to fail- be it Jinnah's cheating exploiting Islam dividing India to get Pakistan or Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in India.

    India must find credible alternative(s) of that inefficient & corrupt Congress rule imposed by that dynasty probably even to survive as a credible state in the long run.

    BJP & Modi is the only practical, NEAR-TERM solution.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 46.

    The choice between Congress and BJP is a choice between the plague and the cholera.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 45.

    @ Nizam
    Jinnah created a terror state, never heard of Mr Khan that you talk about. The real patriot was Sardar Patel. People like him would have elevated India to a higher level.
    BJP, well Advani, apart from falsely praising Jinnah, have never mentioned anyone else from the creators of Pak.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    BJP boss now suddenly remembers Ashfaqulla Khan, a freedom fighter who was hanged by British along with Ram Prasad Bismil, both close friends and Urdu poets.

    Rajnath Singh is trying to be politically smart. He knows that over 18 million Muslims influence voting in over 200 LS seat. He finds it better to recall ‘Bhai Ashfaqulla’ than praise ‘Secular Jinnah’ to fetch a few Muslim votes!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 43.

    If BJP becomes the single largest party in next years election everyone will fall in line. You will also see in such a situation people like Mayawati and Mulayam and even Mamta willing to compromise on their so called secular credentials it will finally boil down to money and power

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 42.

    After waking up to the fact that it can’t come to power on its own in a broadly secular, multi-cultural, multi-religious and vastly diverse India, the BJP is now trying to court various sections, like SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities, particularly Muslims. But whether BJP succeeds in its ‘non-Hindutva’ efforts or not only time will tell.
    But Please don’t so profusely praise Jinnah!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 41.

    I believe Nitish Kumar is a very smart politician he knows that it very unlikely that the congress will come to power and in the next elections there is a role for the third front or atleast have the bargaining power with whichever party comes to power it is a very calculated step possibly also because he lost a seat in latest bypoll.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 40.

    Jinnah was an opportunist. While Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Nehru attempted to get independance, Jinnah waited in the wings and then demanded an Islamic state. Pakistan has been turned into a failed state. If the original Indian muslims wanted an Islamic state then they should all have migrated to Saudi Arabia.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    Politics justifies everything.

    None can forget the once hardline Hindutva mascot Advani praising Jinnah while visiting the Pakistan founder’s tomb. I won’t be surprised if Modi visits Ajmer Sharif with a skull cap on his head to seek the blessings of Khuwaja in his desperate bid to become India’s PM. Of course, the Gujarat CM already has a beard, though not very Islamic one!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 38.

    @37 Naz Rangela
    Muslims need to make every effort to educate themselves, not bury their heads in MADrassas and then claim unfair treatement in the jobs market. If you want to be part of society then integrate and show patriotism as well. Then all people will accept you. By having separatist tendencies, the Muslim populace will be disliked.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    The only shamelessly Muslim-bashing party in India has been the BJP in various avatars. Its parivar outfit, the RSS, even tried to thwart my marriage with my girl friend some 22 years back in a court of Delhi, even though I was a member of BJP’s students wing, the ABVP.

    After realizing that It can’t come to power on its own in secular India, BJP is currently trying to court Muslims.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 36.

    Mr Biswas is a mouthpiece for the failed Congress party that has ground India into the dust. Ineffective during partition, pandering to the Muslim votebank, no universal civil code, should have united Kashmir during 1948 and subsequent wars won against Pak, instead of allowing terrorists to control a third of kashmir. Mr Biswas needs to tell the truth of a corrupt and feeble Congress govt.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 35.

    JDU finally breaks its alliance with BJP, which Indian media call "the end of a 17-year old marriage". its all about political loss and gain and moreover political opportunism. remember the time of 2002 Gujrat riots when Mr Nitish Kumar was Union railway minister. where was his secularism at that point of time?. Nonetheless the JDU's latest move needs to be commended.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 34.

    How is it a bad thing to have a politician who (finally) manages to be strong enough to polarise enough people and politicians to make a difference? It is all still being done in a democratic setting and in five years' time he will have to prove himself one more time. Indians are used to unhappy marriages (at home and in the politics!) It will be a nice change to see someone doing it solo.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 33.

    Soutik Biswas only analyse political game if he has got inside knowledge. To me he only explaine secondhand information received from sources ohte

 

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