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Indira Gandhi Too Faced a Joint Opposition in 1971, She Won Over 320 Seats: Arun Jaitley

While then it was Indira Gandhi who was the glue to unite the opposition parties, now Narendra Modi has emerged as the adhesive who brought the rivals together.

Marya Shakil | CNN-News18maryashakil

Updated:March 14, 2019, 7:43 PM IST
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Indira Gandhi Too Faced a Joint Opposition in 1971, She Won Over 320 Seats: Arun Jaitley
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
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New Delhi: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday derided opposition unity and asserted that Narendra Modi would return as Prime Minister after defeating the grand alliance, just like Indira Gandhi had done in 1971.

Speaking to News18, Jaitley recalled then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had prevailed in 1971 despite facing a combined opposition.

That was the first election in which I worked as a student activist. All opposition parties came together in that election. 'At that time we said it was a grand alliance and Indira Gandhi would be defeated. But people were with Indira Gandhi, she won 320 plus seats and we were nowhere,” he said.

Several political observers have drawn parallels between the 1971 elections and the 2019 polls.

Perhaps the most striking similarity lies in the nature of the electoral contests as both are predominantly personality centric. While then it was Indira Gandhi who was the glue to unite the opposition parties, now Narendra Modi has emerged as the adhesive who brought the rivals together.

Like Indira, Modi is also expecting that the voters do not see an alternative by making it a presidential-style election.

Several other top BJP leaders and ministers, including Nitin Gadkari, have also talked about the similarity to the 1971 elections, saying that like Gandhi, Modi will defeat the opposition.

But there is also a precedence for the joint opposition trumping as it happened in 1977, when a hastily formed Janata alliance of parties defeated the Indira Gandhi-led Congress by a huge margin.

In the wide-ranging interview, Jaitley again sought to pin down the Congress for asking for proof of the air strikes in Pakistan and said that those who stood against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the aftermath of the Balakot bombing had become weapons in Pakistan’s hands.

“What the Pakistanis were saying — that you're doing this with a political purpose — our parties started saying that too. When Pakistan started saying give (us) proof for Balakot, then (our) Opposition started giving proof even though the government hadn’t,” he added.

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