Aditya Kalra –
Indian opposition parties have joined forces to snatch power from the country’s ruling party in a big southern state, laying the stage for other such alliances in a direct challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid next year.
A coalition of Congress and a regional group said on Sunday they will establish a government in Karnataka state this week, after Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to prove its majority despite bagging more seats than any other party in a closely-fought election.
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party — which has struggled to make any major political inroads since Modi stormed to power four years ago — said his party will rally regional groups into a common front against Modi.
“I am very proud that the opposition has stood together and defeated the BJP, and we will continue to do so,” said Rahul.
Karnataka, with a population of 66 million, was the first major state this year to elect an assembly, and will be followed by three more before the general election in 2019. Political strategists say polls in Karnataka, home to India’s “Silicon Valley” Bengaluru, which was previously known as Bangalore, were seen as a key test of Modi’s popularity but the final outcome highlights the threats he faces from a united opposition are much bigger than anticipated.
“Formation of this coalition is a platform for an anti-BJP alliance for the next year,” said Sandeep Shastri, a political scientist at Bengaluru’s Jain University.
“Any shortfall in other states will further consolidate anti-BJP forces.”
Karnataka’s state’s governor last week allowed Modi’s party to form a government, even as it became clear that with only 104 seats the BJP trailed the opposition alliance, which has at least 115 seats in the 225-member assembly.
That decision prompted Modi’s rivals to turn to the Supreme Court.
The governor gave the BJP 15 days to prove its majority, but the court ordered a vote of confidence in the assembly on Saturday.
Even before that could take place, BJP’s newly appointed state chief minister, B S Yeddyurappa, resigned. To bring the regional party — Janata Dal (Secular) — into the alliance, Congress, which has 78 of the seats, did have to concede the chief minister’s job to the smaller group.
Mamata Banerjee, a politician in eastern India, described Modi’s failure in Karnataka as a “victory of the regional front”.
In an apparent show of strength against Modi, most opposition leaders have been invited for the upcoming swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka’s new chief minister. — Reuters
Aditya Kalra –