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2019 Lok Sabha Election: Modi's Challenger

Who from the Opposition will take on the Prime Minister?

2019 Lok Sabha Election: Modi's Challenger
2019 Lok Sabha Election: Modi's Challenger
outlookindia.com
2018-06-11T14:00:39+0530

With 2019 pitched as the election year where Narendra Modi will take on the rest of his political rivals, a seemingly resurgent Opposition faces a tough question: Who will lead them? Herein lies the dilemma for the the non-BJP forces. Each an ambitious leader. How to get all of them on board this Noah's ark? And who will be Noah? A sneak peek into the probables:

Rahul Gandhi 48, Member of Parliament from Amethi

President of the Indian National Congress

Strengths

  • His youthful and clean image
  • Has shown spunk in taking on the might of Narendra Modi and the BJP’s ruthless election machinery in states like Gujarat, and beating the BJP at its own game by forming the government in Karnataka, besides his much-discussed temple run
    • Is more pragmatic and secure as he empowers party seniors like Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Ghulam Nabi Azad

Weaknesses

  • Compared to single-minded Modi, tends to come across as a non-serious politician who takes frequent breaks and holidays
  • Inexperience in administration as he refused to take up any role in the UPA government
  • Can come across as impetuous in decision-making, as when he publicly tore to shreds the UPA ordinance on convicted lawmakers

Opportunities

  • Can cash in on the dipping curve of the Modi government
  • His easy-going and friendly persona is being used to present him as Modi’s antithesis
  • Congress legacy can be used to leverage voters feeling let down by the Modi government
  • Has shown openness in taking a back seat to regional leaders and working with them, and has an easy equation with other political scions like Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav and Jayant Chaudhary

Threats

  • The BJP and the right-wing social-media machinery will not allow the ‘Pappu’ image to disappear easily
  • His reluctance to take responsibility
  • Rise of regional parties in states

Akhilesh Yadav 44, Former chief minister of UP

Samajwadi Party president

Strengths

  • Emerged as face of development as UP CM
  • Has a youthful and relatively clean personal image
  • Has shown sagacity by building bridges with Mayawati
  • Rebuilt the SP by patching up with father Mulayam Singh and uncle Shivpal Yadav

Opportunities

  • Hold over the Muslim-Yadav votebank, amounting to about 28 per centof the voters
  • SP’s tally can only increase from the present seven seats (including two recent bypoll wins) in the Lok Sabha and 47 in the UP assembly.

Weaknesses

  • Lost grip over law and order in UP as he promoted members of the Yadav community
  • Failed to stand up to his family as they bulldozed his decisions

Threats

  • Family feuds and internal rivalries can flare up anytime
  • Other regional satraps like Mayawati may force him to play second fiddle

Mayawati 62, Three-time chief minister of UP

Bahujan Samaj Party chief

Strengths

  • A Dalit leader who has forged her own brand of politics combining socialistic leanings with populism
  • Has the image of governing UP with an iron hand
  • Uses the Dalit card in polls, but accommodates everyone while administering

Opportunities

  • With growing Dalit and OBC disenchantment with the BJP, it is a chance to consolidate her traditional non-Yadav OBC votebank
  • If she manages to add 18 per cent of Muslims to her votebank, she becomes a formidable challenger

Weaknesses

  • Has failed to develop a second-rung party leadership
  • Has been unable to keep her flock together and failed to woo back those who crossed over to the BJP
  • Her voteshare has steadily declined, holding on to only her core constituency of Jatavs

Threats

  • Corruption cases haunt the BSP and her builder-friendly policies burnt the common man’s pockets
  • The old rivalry with SP can flare up, leading to ego clashes

Mamata Banerjee 63, Chief minister of West Bengal

All India Trinamool Congress chief

Strengths

  • Image of street-smart fighter, who ended the CPI(M)’s 34-year rule in Bengal
  • Has redefined who her opposition is at every stage, after decimating the last one
  • Makes allies walk on eggshells, extending only issue-based support

Opportunities

  • Poll experts say her party’s ascending voteshare could get her 40 of 42 LS seats in Bengal, giving her an edge over other regional parties
  • Experience and capital might place her at the fulcrum of alliance negotiations

Weaknesses

  • Her mercurial nature lends itself to an image of unreliability and volatility
  • Party leaders wary of tacit projection of nephew Abhishek Banerjee as a sort of successor
  • Seen as “pandering to minorities” and polarising the scene for political gain

Threats

  • Easy to prick the scam-heavy clouds of Narada and Sharada into a downpour anytime
  • Mukul Roy could take away some leaders with promises of Union cabinet berths

Naveen Patnaik 71, Four-time CM of Odisha

Biju Janata Dal chief

Strengths

  • His clean, secular and development-oriented image
  • A master strategist despite having been a reluctant starter
  • Showed sharp acumen in ending alliance with the BJP in 2009 to emerge as a strong regional force that even the 2014 Modi wave failed to dent

Opportunities

  • To thwart the BJP’s aggressive push, he has stepped up his connect with the people through various welfare schemes and social media presence
  • Said to be in talks with Mamata Banerjee and K. Chandrashekhar Rao to be a part of a united front

Weaknesses

  • He is not fluent with Odia, making him the only CM in India who doesn’t speak the regional language of the state
  • Image of being a reclusive, uncommunicative and distant politician

Threats

  • Rumours about his health issues may make it difficult for him
  • Corruption cases against some of his party members may come up to embarrass him

H.D. Deve Gowda 85, Former prime minister

Janata Dal (Secular) president

Strengths

  • Image of a humble farmer, working his way up
  • Rapport with regional leaders like N. Chandrababu Naidu and Mayawati was on show at son Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in.
  • Ability to negotiate seen by his contribution to the 1997 Nagaland ceasefire agreement

Opportunities

  • His age lends him the image of an elder statesman, who may be acceptable as a consensus candidate when push comes to shove
  • His party, with less than one-sixth of the seats in Karnataka, was the speed-breaker that slowed down the BJP’s southward march

Weaknesses

  • At 85, he may be considered a little old to be PM
  • Since 2004, the highest seat tally of the Janata Dal (Secular) in the Lok Sabha has been three, and the political weight might not add up even in 2019

Threats

  • Open to charge of nepotism as he now wants his grandson Prajwal to contest from his Hassan Lok Sabha seat
  • The tenuous tie-up with Congress in Karnataka may not last, queering the 2019 pitch

Tejashwi Prasad Yadav 28, Leader of Opposition in Bihar Legislative Assembly

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader

Strengths

  • Carries forwad his father Laloo Prasad Yadav’s legacy as he calls ‘Laloovaad’ a ‘vichaardhara’ (ideology)
  • Proved himself to be an able administrator as the deputy chief minister of Bihar
  • Ability to connect with the masses

Opportunities

  • Capable of consolidating Laloo’s traditional Muslim-Yadav vote-bank, amounting to 30 per cent of the voters
  • Yadavs feel let down by Nitish Kumar for abandoning Laloo and Muslims for going with the BJP
  • If the RJD gets 25 of the 40 seats, he’ll have a strong claim

Weaknesses

  • The shadow of corruption with the cases he inherited from his father; he was named in the FIR in the IRCTC hotels scam
  • His youth and lack of experience may go against him

Threats

  • With Laloo in jail, the biggest draw in campaigning would be missing
  • Sibling rivalry may raise its head if Tej Pratap decides to play spoilsport and stake claim to Laloo’s legacy
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