The Indian political landscape is witnessing a significant shift as Opposition parties have joined forces for an unprecedented alliance to take on the ruling BJP in the forthcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The battle is set to begin in just a year’s time and seemingly, a sense of ‘unity’ has encompassed the Opposition parties in the country, having only one objective in their holster - defeating the dominant BJP.
Recognizing the need to unite against a formidable opponent, several parties with diverse ideologies have set aside their differences and come together,aiming to provide a viable alternative to the BJP's dominance.
During the year, a number of meetings of key leaders were held to chalk out a strategy to oust the BJP which has probably become a chimera by now, but to focus on an alternate reality – the brute majority of the BJP in the current Lok Sabha is not actually the true measure of its vote bank.
On Tuesday (July 18) during a meeting in Bengaluru, the name of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by the Indian National Congress, was officially renamed to 'I.N.D.I.A' (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) with several more parties joining the bandwagon.
While some leaders expressed discontent on the name initially and suggested different alternatives, it was subsequently approved as the majority of it supported the acronym. The leaders who disagreed on the acronym, later acquiesced.
A total of 26 parties have come together including - Indian National Congress (INC): The largest party in the bloc with 80 MPs (49 in Lok Sabha and 31 in Rajya Sabha), All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena (UBT), Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Apna Dal (Kamerawadi), Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), All India Forward Bloc, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) , Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi (KMDK), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Kerala Congress (M), Kerala Congress (Joseph).
With such a large number of leaders in one scoop, it is quite evident that they might have realized by now that a fragmented opposition will only weaken their chances of success, and a unified front is necessary to counter the BJP's well-oiled election machinery.
Addressing a joint press conference following the meeting in Bengaluru, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said, "This was a very important meeting to save democracy and the Constitution in the interest of the people of the country. We have come together and discussed various points. With one voice, people supported the resolution adopted today," he said.
"Our alliance will be called Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), he added.
The shared dislike for the BJP can perhaps be the most powerful glue that can keep the already heterogeneous Opposition, together. The BJP is aware of the fact that it has too many enemies and its decreasing hold among its allies in certain states. Its antics and the ‘conduct’ with its former allies like the Shiva Sena (Uddhav faction) and the Janata Dal (United) are now ‘public knowledge’, so to speak. Not to mention the induction of the NCP into the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government.
It is unclear if the Opposition bloc could actually be successful in bringing down the superior BJP, but there is however signs of uneasiness among the latter as the 2024 polls, which they thought they put a lid on, look quite open for grabs.
Notably, certain parties in the bloc hold significant influence in their respective states and bring with them a vast voter base and regional clout. By combining their resources and strategies, they can broaden their appeal and challenge the BJP's dominance in crucial battleground states. The major players include – the TMC, AAP, DMK, amongst a few others.
One of the primary challenges facing the opposition alliance is maintaining the delicate balance of power and addressing ideological differences within its ranks. While the parties may share a common goal of defeating the BJP, their respective priorities and policy positions may diverge. Hence, the alliance must build consensus on key issues and formulate a comprehensive agenda that appeals to a wide cross-section of voters.
Another crucial objective for the opposition alliance is to effectively communicate its vision and alternative policies to the electorate. The BJP has mastered the art of populist messaging, and the opposition must counter this by articulating a clear and compelling narrative that resonates with the aspirations of the people. The alliance must also address concerns regarding governance, economic development, social justice, and inclusive growth, which have been key pillars of the BJP's appeal.
The opposition coming together against the BJP has the potential to reshape Indian politics. A united front presents a formidable challenge to the saffron party, especially in key states where the opposition parties enjoy significant support. It could lead to a more competitive electoral landscape, with increased focus on policy debates, accountability, and checks on executive power.
Furthermore, a strong opposition alliance could potentially prevent the BJP from securing a majority in the Lok Sabha, forcing it to form a coalition government. This scenario would mark a departure from the BJP's current dominance and encourage the revival of a more robust parliamentary democracy, with diverse voices and viewpoints shaping policy decisions.
Now, there has been reactions from certain political leaders from the ruling BJP including Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who pointed out that the name ‘India’ was given by the British and we should “strive to free ourselves from colonial legacies”.
“Our civilisational conflict is pivoted around India and Bharat. The British named our country as India. We must strive to free ourselves from colonial legacies. Our forefathers fought for Bharat, and we will continue to work for Bharat. BJP for BHARAT” the Assam CM wrote on Twitter.
BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya compared the rechristened Opposition with the regrouping of members of the banned terror outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) under a different banner.
“SIMI was a radical organisation. Its officials regrouped under a different banner, when it was banned… But regrouping under a different banner didn’t change the character of the members and that new organisation too, was eventually banned,” the BJP functionary said in a tweet, in an apparent reference to the recent ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI).
“Similarly, UPA had become synonymous with corruption and regressive politics. The same players, now regrouping under a different name, won’t make them any more credible. People will banish them to boondocks, again,” Malviya added.
The saffron party further upped the ante by saying that the 2024 Lok Sabha battle is going to be 'Bharat Mata versus INDIA'.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during meeting of the NDA on Tuesday, took a sly dig at the new combine, saying that alliances built on negativity never succeeded and asserted that the NDA will win a third consecutive term. The NDA conclave was held hours after the Opposition meet in Bengaluru.
On the other hand, the ‘I.N.D.I.A’ alliance finalized ‘Jeetega Bharat’ as the combine's tagline, setting the tone for their 2024 Lok Sabha campaign. The Hindi tagline means "India will win" and is likely to be replicated in several regional languages.
The concept of ‘opposition unity’ is yet to become meaningful. The parties understand that they may fare well in state assembly elections, but that might not be the case in Lok Sabha elections. The expansion of the BJP, geographically, has greatly reduced the opposition’s foothold in the national stage. Many of these leaders have also succumbed to horse-trading that the ruling BJP has resorted to - to eliminate and destabilize the opposition entirely.
The BJP has undoubtedly become a formidable force to be reckoned with money and executive power, implausible media support along with the ubiquitous face of Narendra Modi who leaves no stones unturned to be on TV.
While challenges remain, the opposition alliance has the potential to provide a viable alternative and reshape the political landscape, fostering a more vibrant and dynamic democracy in India. The upcoming elections will determine whether this united front can translate their aspirations into electoral success and usher in a new era of governance in the country.
The election results might look predestined from afar but as they say – its never too late to regain your credibility.