The third meeting of the opposition parties which have formed INDIA (Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance) is to be held next week.
If they are not careful, then the story of 1971 will be repeated in front of them.
Even then an opposition coalition had come together and tried to defeat a strong prime minister.
At that time the slogan was: remove Indira. Indira Gandhi had given the slogan of Garibi Hatao in comparison to this. Can you understand why the Prime Minister won?
The current opposition parties are united in saying ‘Modi Hatao’ while Narendra Modi is talking about ‘Amrit Kaal’ which can be considered as an aspirational equivalent of ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan of yesteryears.
It is too early to say anything and so far INDIA (exaggerated and misleading name) has focused on unifying some basic systems.
The next step is to tell them why voters should believe their word of removing Modi and why an alliance is a better option.
It can be assumed that India is not planning a repeat of the 2019 Congress campaign.
At that time Rahul Gandhi focused on personal corruption allegations but to no avail.
The Congress cannot even expect a negative vote like the one seen after the Emergency or to some extent in 2014 because the personal popularity of the Prime Minister is very high.
Certainly many criticize Modi harshly because he has weakened institutions that could have made the executive more accountable.
But the number of people voting on this basis will be relatively less and they can also see that many opposition parties misuse their rights while in power.
If the opposition hopes to win, the new alliance will have to move beyond merely criticizing the government and offer a better alternative.
It will not be easy. For example, the opposition does not have a leader who can stand up to Modi. This is one of the major reasons why the BJP has fared better in the Lok Sabha elections than in the Assembly elections.
The opposition has limited resources to contest elections and its campaign will also be less organized than that of the ruling party.
However, experience tells us that if the mood of the public is adverse, then even money power is not of much help.
Why would the public mood be against it? Inflation and unemployment can be the reason for this.
To neutralize it, Modi will proceed on the basis of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s core agenda: building a temple in Ayodhya, ending Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and ending minority appeasement.
They can also present a narrative mixing facts and exaggerations about strengthening India’s global stature and engendering national pride.
However, his government’s performance on civil liberties has been criticized abroad.
Forgetting China for a moment, it can also talk aggressively about national security and India’s march towards becoming the world’s third largest economy.
It may also come up with various digitization initiatives, welfare schemes, and examples of development: infrastructure creation and introduction of high-speed trains, etc.
With memories of demonetisation and the Covid lockdown fading, many voters may want to give Modi a third chance because of these factors.
But this is just the beginning and in the coming days the opposition alliance is likely to come out with a detailed plan on what it will do if it wins.
It can announce many freebies as Congress did in Karnataka recently. The Aam Aadmi Party has also been doing the same.
The alliance may repeat the approach adopted against the Vajpayee government in 2004 where it focused on those left behind amid rapid development.
But adopting a welfarist and populist approach may lead the coalition to move away from market-oriented economic reforms.
The real risk, however, is that the basic assumption – that the votes for a coalition-sponsored candidate will be at least equal to the sum of its parts – prove to be shaky.