Indian opposition alliance splits ahead of polls

June 16, 2013

The second-biggest party in India’s main opposition alliance quit the group Sunday after the dominant party appointed a Hindu ideologue to lead its campaign for parliamentary elections next year.

Janata Dal (United), a powerful socialist party in eastern Bihar state, left the National Democratic Alliance, saying it fears that with Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in charge, the alliance could alienate voters because of his anti-Muslim image.

“We have decided to part ways,” Janata Dal chief Sharad Yadav said.

Janata Dal had unsuccessfully demanded that the BJP declare that Modi, the chief minister of western Gujarat state, will not be its prime ministerial choice if the alliance wins in 2014.

Janata Dal, which holds 20 of the 545 seats in Parliament’s powerful lower house, is dependent on the support of Muslims, who constitute 16.5 percent of the 111 million people in Bihar.

Modi is accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 that left more than 1,000 dead. He has denied wrongdoing in connection with the violence but has never expressed remorse or offered an apology. He was never charged with a crime.

The split is expected to hurt the opposition alliance’s chances of wresting control of the federal government from the scandal-plagued Congress party.

The Congress party is expected to welcome Janata Dal into its governing United Progressive Alliance.

Janata Dal and the BJP have been running a coalition government in Bihar since 2005. The National Democratic Alliance governed the country from 1998 to 2004, when it was unseated by the alliance led by the Congress party.

Two other regional groups, Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, are key members of the opposition alliance.

— Associated Press

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