DC Edit | 2024 turns two-horse race as INDIA is born

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

It is perhaps for the first time in Opposition politics in India that such a mega-alliance has been formed.

The opposition alliance will be called Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) and an 11-member committee will be set up for coordination, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge announced on Tuesday. (PTI Photo/Shailendra Bhojak)

The battle lines for the 2024 Lok Sabha election have been drawn, with the Opposition parties forming a grand alliance and chalking out a broad outline of their agenda at their Bengaluru meeting on Tuesday. The 26-member INDIA, an acronym for the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, will fight on a plank of the “retrieval of the idea of India” while the NDA, with 39 parties, will base itself on the promise of “continuing with the unprecedented growth and development” that India is said to hve witnessed in the last nine years.

The formation of INDIA, initial reservations expressed by some leaders to the name notwithstanding, is a watershed event in that it has subsumed almost all political formations of some standing into it. It is perhaps for the first time in Opposition politics in India that such a mega-alliance has been formed. The Janata Party came into being in 1977 by the amalgamation of four Opposition parties but several others, including the Left and the DMK, were still outside, supporting the Opposition cause. The United Front of 1989 also had a number of regional parties supporting the new formation while keeping their identities intact. When the NDA came to power in 1998, the Telugu Desam and the AIADMK supported it from outside. Even the 2004 elections, which saw the UPA coming to power with the support of the Left, had the two formations keeping a distance from one another. The Bharat Rashtra Samithi that rules Telangana and Janata Dal (Secular) with some following in Karnataka are the two notable exceptions in that they did not join the alliance. Team INDIA, for that reason, is a different experiment altogether.  

The Bengaluru meeting is clear in its objective — the ruling alliance has been undermining everything that India has stood for and hence must go. It has made an agenda which clearly differentiates its political positioning from that of the BJP so that the electorate need not get confused on any item on it. The list calls for a caste census, seeks an end to violence against the underprivileged and calls out the BJP’s “poisonous campaign of hate” against minorities. The Bengaluru meet has also suggested the creation of an 11-member coordination committee that will work towards building a consensus on various issues.

While the regional parties have their own reasons and political compulsions to join forces to oust the BJP, the Congress has proved to be a pragmatic player in the messy Opposition space. The party under its newly-elected president Mallikarjun Kharge has given an impression that it is willing to drop its claim to the pole position, a change from its earlier stand that it is the natural claimant to it. The party, after its brilliant performance in the Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka Assembly elections, has regained the confidence that behoves the grand old party and has chosen not to tom-tom it. There is no dearth of aspirants for the prime ministerial chair in the formation but the Congress’ public announcement that it is not aiming for it will help them keep their cool for the time being.

Having made the points of contrast in their agendas clear for all to see and feel, the two fronts promise the Indian electorate some exciting politicking in the months to come.