Just five days before the third meeting of the anti-BJP opposition parties now acronymed India National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) on August 31 and September 1 in Mumbai, a major issue should be made clear to the constituents as also to the people of the country in general. This is INDIA has been primarily formed to take on the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 and this objective of the present 26 member block does not clash with the ambition of the constituent parties to expand their respective bases in states.
The issue was in focus in media for a short time this week as the Congress and AAP leaders crossed swords over AAP’s election campaign in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh before the assembly polls by the end of the year. Congress was jittery that AAP intrusion will help BJP. Fortunately, the furore is over now as the Congress spokesperson clarified that ‘The India alliance is robust. A number of parties compete at the state level. This has been going on ever since coalitions and alliance partners have been created. That is the historical truth’. AAP spokesman reciprocated by saying India Alliance has always been a national level alliance for 2024 Lok Sabha elections and this is not meant to be extended to the state elections.
That however does not mean that the India constituents will always fight against each other in the states and join hands only during Lok Sabha elections. The issue is a bit complex in the states but still, the leading INDIA party in each state can try for a sort of alliance with another India constituent to fight jointly against BJP. For instance Congress is the main party in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and it is in a position to fight BJP on its own, but still, it can come to an alliance with one or two parties like AAP, SP in marginal seats. If there is some limited alliance in state polls, it is good, but if it does not happen, it should not have any impact on the INDIA alliance’s combined bid to take on the BJP in Lok Sabha elections.
For instance, by polls are being held in seven constituencies. Out of this, in two constituencies, INDIA partners are fighting against each other. In Kerala, in the constituency of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who recently passed away, the Congress is fighting to retain the seat against the CPI(M) candidate. This is normal in Kerala politics and this will continue in Lok Sabha elections also as both the Congress led UDF and the CPI(M) led LDF will be fighting for 20 Lok Sabha seats. In the present Lok Sabha, UDF has 19 and LDF has one. LDF is determined to increase its share from Kerala and Congress knows it. The Congress party also is trying to get all the 20 seats for UDF by capitalizing on the image of the Wayanad Lok Sabha member Rahul Gandhi who is extremely popular in this state.
Similarly, in Dhupguri by poll in Bengal, Trinamool Congress is fighting against the BJP candidate as also the third candidate of the CPIM) supported by the Congress. In Tripura, the Congress is supporting the CPI(M) in two constituencies. Here the TMC is not contesting but TMC is not extending support also. So in Kerala and Bengal, there are different tactics but this is accepted as this comes out of the political compulsions in each state.
In the last seven decades of parliamentary elections in India, the political scenario changed from the sixties of the last century with the coming of many anti-Congress fronts. The process started nationally in a big way in 1977 with the formation of Janata Party and the coming of the anti-Congress government led by Morarji Desai. Following that, many splits and new formations took place, but the most important was Janata Dal led by V P Singh which formed the National Front government in 1989. The BJP with 88 seats supported it from one side and the Left parties from other. This was the government which facilitated the BJP to induct its people in the key areas of the centre. The Left was aware of the BJP machinations but could do little.
In 1996, another front of anti- Congress and BJP parties was formed and this front led the government for some time. This was followed in 1998 by the BJP leading a front named National Democratic Alliance. This NDA is now 25 year old and has now got 37 parties as members. NDA was in the government from 1998 to 2004 Then the Congress staged a comeback after 2004 Lok Sabha elections. In 2004, Sonia Gandhi as Congress president formed United Progressive Alliance and this government ruled till 2014 Lok Sabha elections before the coming of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.
UPA was not much active after the defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and finally it was replaced by INDIA alliance at the Bengaluru conclave last month. UPA had 16 members but INDIA has now 26, but more may be admitted at Mumbai conclave. The morale is that such alliances are formed due to some historic necessity but they do not survive for long at national level. The serious national political parties take a futuristic view and they frame their programmes accordingly as a long term player, irrespective of any temporary alliance.
The Mumbai conclave should be a business like and all the major committees and the groups including the convener should be decided by August 31 so that the final meeting next day can give approval to the names without any hitch. Out of these, the most important committee is the one on seat sharing. This should include the leaders who have uncanny qualities in carrying negotiations with success. This committee should also include leaders with high stature who are respected by all constituents. This and the campaign committee are the two most important bodies which will play a decisive role for INDIA in 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Looking at the pre Lok Sabha election scenario, there are some hard facts the INDIA alliance leaders must consider.NDA, especially BJP is ahead in Lok Sabha elections in terms of both seats and votes but at state elections level, INDIA fares much better compared to the NDA. For instance, in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, NDA got 332 seats with 25.9 crore votes while the present INDIA alliance got 144 seats with 22.9 crore votes There was a gap of 3 crore votes. As against this, if we take the results of last five years of state assembly elections, INDIA has got 1793 seats with 26. 8 crore votes as against NDA’s 1704 seats 23.2 crore thereby giving a huge 3.6 Crore votes lead to INDIA. This is a massive lead and this is upto latest state assembly elections.
So, the INDIA leaders can start with the basis that the mood of the voters in the states is in favour of the INDIA parties led state governments. But in Lok Sabha elections, the NDA gets advantage. Thus the primary task of INDIA leaders is to identify the areas which will neutralize this gap which essentially is due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brand image which is still valid. The third conclave has to ensure that in the next eight months, INDIA alliance leaders as also state governments run by the constituents are alert to beat back any bid to organise communal disturbances to polarize voters to the benefit of the BJP.
Narendra Modi is focusing on three point formula Nationalism (it can be hyper if needed), Hindutva and Welfare Schemes for the Poor, especially OBCs. PM has cultivated himself as Vishwaguru. INDIA alliance has to adopt a highly innovative narrative to challenge the Modi line in the election campaign. The old propaganda line of constantly lampooning Modi as the Hindu bigot won’t do. INDIA should unambiguously declare INDIA BHARAT is a secular nation comprising Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others. INDIA alliance will not allow Hindus to be hijacked by the fundamentalists. INDIA alliance constituents are the defenders of the principles of tolerance of Hinduism which has been distorted by the RSS and the BJP. The renewal of trust by a good section of common Hindus in INDIA leadership should be a prime part in the composite campaign strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. (IPA Service)