Home News Is Modi worried? India’s long-sluggish opposition has found some momentum.

Is Modi worried? India’s long-sluggish opposition has found some momentum.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed great confidence in the general election. “Ab ki baar, 400 paar” was his party’s slogan – this time, they got 400 seats in the lower house of parliament, a stunning majority.

But as the seven-week voting period enters its final stages, with results expected on June 4, India is witnessing something unusual from its powerful leader. He is sweating.

As Modi crisscrossed the country for rallies in 100-degree heat, he often appeared defensive and sometimes panicked. He often shelved his party’s main campaign message – India is rising under his leadership – countering claims by his opponents that he favored business and caste elites. he has resorted to Stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment fended off attempts to divide his Hindu support base, but later disavowed his remarks.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remains the favorite. But the party found a glimmer of hope in a political opposition that had been sidelined after crushing defeats by Modi in the previous two national elections.

The opposition has gained traction in challenging Modi’s control over the national narrative. With the broadcast media fearful of him, opposition leaders have turned to online platforms to find audiences for campaigns focused on economics and social justice, portraying Modi as the main culprit for India’s economic crisis. India’s growing inequality.

Ahead of the election, the often bickering opposition parties united in a grand coalition to tackle a common threat: Modi’s mission, they say, is to weaken them and Transform the country into one-party rule. The coalition lost valuable time in the months leading up to the vote, Troubled by internal divisionsThe alliance has largely remained united despite Modi’s attempts to lure some members away and marginalize others through legal action.

The alliance hopes this will improve electoral performance, as the split opposition votes in 2019 elections worked in Modi’s favor. To significantly erode the ruling party’s existing absolute majority in parliament, the opposition must flip a large number of seats in the more populous north, where the BJP is deeply entrenched, and hold its ground in the more prosperous south.

Arati Jerat, a political analyst in New Delhi, said: “The opposition realizes that now is the time. They must fight Modi with all their strength or they will die.”

Analysts say elections that focus on local issues favor the opposition. This spring, Modi again turned a parliamentary election for more than 540 seats into a presidential referendum that hinged on his popularity and record.

But it is clear that after a decade in power, his ability to steer elections away from local issues (and to paper over local struggles and infighting within the party) is waning. The opposition is trying to take advantage of a vibrant grassroots campaign.

In the run-up to the vote, Modi stepped up political repression. The chief ministers of two opposition-controlled states were jailed and the bank accounts of the main opposition Indian National Congress party were largely frozen. “But people started campaigning door to door, village to village, state to state. So that really became the basis of the opposition,” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said in an interview.

“Now they are frustrated,” he added, referring to the BJP

The Congress party is trying to extricate itself from a huge dilemma. The rise of caste-based regional parties has marginalized the once dominant party in the north, which plays a crucial role in Indian elections, and Modi’s rise has pushed the party back further. Modi, who has worked hard all his life from a humble background, could easily expose the true face of the Congress party. Rahul Gandhias a detached, lightweight beneficiary of dynastic politics.

The extent to which the Congress party is trying to shake off this impression can be seen from the form and content of its election manifesto.

The new-faced Mr Gandhi was at the center of the party’s 2019 manifesto, with a message of jobs and economic development. In the 2024 filing, he sports a gray beard, a nod to his ties to Indian Country on two cross-country trips since 2022, one of which Covering 2,000 miles walk.

If that wasn’t enough, next to him was Mr Haq, 81, who was elected as Congress president in 2022. his Half a century in politicsHis background as a Dalit at the bottom of India’s strict caste system helps offset the impact of Modi’s personal experience.

The Congress party’s campaign promises – from cash transfers to poor women to “guaranteed first jobs” for young people through one-year paid apprenticeships – show that the party has learned from the success of India’s southern states Lessons Learned, a book about Mr Gandhi’s struggle to lead his party.

“It’s good,” Srinivasaraj said. “But the Congress party has no emotional or cultural argument against” the BJP, which adheres to a Hindu nationalist ideology.

The closest the Congress has come is its effort to merge two issues: long-standing caste inequality and rising unemployment.

India’s constitution stipulates that about half of government jobs and seats in higher education are reserved for the lower, middle and lower classes of the caste system. As the Indian economy struggles to create enough private sector jobs, these government jobs are seen as key to achieving economic mobility.

The Congress party’s call for a census of India’s castes – for decades, Indian officials have not released the population size of each caste – seems to be resonating. The party said such an approach would ensure marginalized Indians get their due share.

The move also adds fuel to two accusations against Modi: that he oversees an economy that benefits only billionaires and that his party has an upper-caste bias. While it is true that the BJP was once an upper-caste urban party, Mr. Modi has broadened its base by bringing in lower castes. But his response to the accusations suggested he was concerned the label might be attached.

“He served the rich. He did nothing for the poor,” Mr. Kharg told a large gathering in Mumbai.

Behind Haqq are the leaders of several parties in the alliance, each of whom will capitalize on grievances to portray Modi as a danger to India.

One of them, Arvind Kejriwal, made a particularly personal point: that Modi was trying to turn the country into something like Russia under President Vladimir V. Putin — “one nation, one leader.”

“I have just returned from jail,” Mr. Kejriwal said at the start of his speech.

The expansion of his Awami League party, which holds power in the Delhi region and northern Punjab state, is a threat to Modi, whose government arrested Kejriwal on corruption charges on the eve of an election, creating the grotesque reality that India’s capital operates from a jail.

Mr Kejriwal successfully obtained bail for three weeks during the campaign. As he hopped from rally to rally across the country, his engagement with the crowds made it clear why Modi wanted to keep him behind bars.

In Mumbai, he painted India under Modi as a dystopia where anyone who gets in the prime minister’s way is locked up. Kejriwal said he was constantly monitored by multiple cameras in jail – “monitoring when I got up, when I went to the toilet, how long I sat on the toilet.”

He then made his final appeal. He said the election was a vote on whether he should remain in prison or return to freedom. On June 4, he will watch the election results from his cell.

“You can write to me,” he said. “Cell No. 25, Jail No. 2, Tihar Jail.”

Hari Kumar Reporting from New Delhi contributed.

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