The opposition in India could be collapsing behind Modi

In order to take on the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, in the 2017 general election, more than two dozen opposition groups in India united in July. Composed of smaller, regional parties and the main opposition Congress, the coalition called itself INDIA, a play on words that stands for the somewhat flowery Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. The coalition’s ability to maintain unity and reach a tactical seat-sharing agreement—which guaranteed a single primary candidate in every constituency—was critical to the coalition’s victory over the BJP.


A dispersed opposition always helps the governing incumbent under India’s “first past the post” multiparty system, where the winner gets all. under the 2019 general election, Mr. Modi’s party garnered 37% of the national vote but won an astounding 303 of the 543 seats. However, just half a year after its formation, India’s disorganized opposition coalition is in a chaotic state. The most recent catalyst was regional leader Nitish Kumar’s decision to rejoin the BJP after leaving a state-level ruling coalition in the northern state of Bihar. Eighteen months prior, Mr. Kumar had left a coalition headed by the BJP. From now on, the BJP is counting on Mr. Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) party to win most of the 40 seats in the state.


In India’s chaotic politics, turncoats are not unusual, but many were surprised by the 72-year-old Mr. Kumar’s defection. Mr. Kumar was once considered a possible prime minister of an opposition coalition. “The INDIA alliance suffers a great loss with his departure. Additionally, it conveys the message that the partnership is failing, according to Indian political expert Gilles Verniers. But that’s not all. Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal and Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi and Punjab, two regional leaders in the coalition, have broken with the Congress and said unequivocally that they will pursue independent paths in their respective states. Put otherwise, little to no seat-sharing is anticipated.

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