Battle 2024: BJP, Opposition engage in competitive coalition-forging
Though the parties have claimed that power does not top their agenda, the leadership of the opposition alliance is certainly a sticking point.
The Indian political scene increasingly looks like a sporting arena, with two teams, ranged against each other, flexing muscles and shoring up allies. At last count, the score was 26 for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and 38 for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and has turned more into a contest of optics. Parallel meetings have been organised—one in Bengaluru and the other in New Delhi. There is much curiosity over why the BJP-led NDA is suddenly being revived since the saffron party has a brute majority in the Lok Sabha. Yet, the meeting is looking at a bigger mandate. The recent Karnataka poll debacle could be one of the factors that has prompted the BJP to count noses too. The Opposition front, tentatively named Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), appears to be setting the agenda for the NDA.
The Opposition parties’ meeting boasts of an impressive array of veterans, representing all shades of the political spectrum, though a few among the motley group have lost their heft. Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar head split factions of their parties, with the stronger camps taken away by the BJP. Pawar Sr, though under pressure from nephew Ajit to join hands with the BJP, has opted to support the ‘secular’ front. The avowed agenda of these parties is to ‘save democracy’ and the Constitution and stand united to fight a ‘hostile’ ruling party that has unleashed the CBI, ED, I-T and NIA against them. The AAP, which sealed a deal with the Congress on the Delhi ordinance, adds a new dimension. In all this, the JDS appears to be out in the cold. Its antipathy towards the Congress has left it standing outside the BJP’s door to forge a poll alliance, unmindful of the impact on its ‘secular’ image. At the last such grand alliance photo-op in 2018, the regional party was an enthusiastic participant. Either way, it needs to piggyback on one of the two fronts for survival.
Though the parties have claimed that power does not top their agenda, the leadership of the opposition alliance is certainly a sticking point. The success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and Karnataka victory gives the Congress an edge. Still, there are many prime ministerial aspirants, and this issue may be resolved only by the parties’ electoral performance. It may not get the BJP into a twist for now, but if the grand alliance manages to seize the national narrative, even the Modi magic may begin to pall.