16 April, 2024

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The New Kurukshetra: BJP & Opposition Alliances For The 2024 Elections

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

As President Wickremesinghe gets ready to leave Colombo for his state visit to India (at the time of writing), the political news out of India is the jostling of Indian political parties into opposing alliances for the grand electoral battle for national power that will unfold in 2024. To date 64 parties have entered the fray, 26 for the Opposition who convened first in Patna and later in Bengaluru, and the governing BJP-led NDA alliance responding in Delhi with a tally of 38 parties. 

In a multitudinous culture that is steeped in epics and mythologies, the alliance formation and the upcoming electoral battle might be seen as a modern and postmodern electoral version of the Kurukshetra war in the old Mahabharata in the age of the social media. Who will be seen as the new Pandavas and who as the Kauravas will depend on the eyes of the beholders. There is no Krishna to emerge and there is no prospect for a new Bhagavat Gita. Although Narendra Modi is brash enough to cast himself as Krishna for the great battle that he is manifestly spoiling for. And his followers are daft enough to make a Gita out of his random musings. 

If one were to look for a new Draupadi, 21st century India has quite a few of them. The latest of them were paraded in Manipur, the northeastern State bordering Myanmar. Three Kuki tribal women were stripped and paraded as naked trophies by a mob of Meitei community that attacked a Kuki village killing 142 people and injuring over 300. One of the three was “brutally gangraped,” which is becoming the new norm for communal clashes in India. The incident took place in May, the local police were complicit, and little was known outside the State. The BJP government and the Prime Minister were silent for over two months until a video of the stripping and parading of the women went viral on July 19. The Prime Minister was finally forced to break his silence and acknowledge the horror of the incident. “The entire country has been shamed,” Modi told parliament last week, and promised action against the perpetrators with the full force of the law. 

In the scheme of the current goings on in India, President Wickremesinghe’s visit will be less than a drop in the Ganges. Although the President and his Colombo clique will try to make a waterfall of it for Sri Lankan politics. Apart from preparing for the (epic) elections next year, the Modi government is also dealing with a full plate of international initiatives. India will be hosting the G20 Summit in September, and as a precursor hosted the gathering of the Group’s finance ministers this week in Ghandinagar, Gujarat’s capital. In August, the Prime Minister will be attending the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit hosted by South Africa. 

The G20 and BRICS are having a tough time herding their members who are divided over Russia’s war in Ukraine. The G20 finance ministers could not agree on “a common language” on Ukraine for their customary statement, although according to India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, several members condemned Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments to reach the world’s needier countries. 

The BRICS gathering has got into hot waters with the county’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, going to court to force the South African government to arrest Vladimir Putin if he were to arrive in South Africa for the summit. The government and President Cyril Ramaphosa will have none of it, and Putin has decided to stay away from the summit on the advice of the South African President.

India is literally sitting on the fence on the Ukrainian matter and no one in the government is witty like Nehru to say that India will sit there as long it is comfortable, as he said during the early years of the Indochina conflict. But there is no sitting on the fence for the government when it comes to dealing with opposition parties within India. Internally, it is always a matter of drawing battlelines with those whom the Modi government does not agree. And the opposition parties do not care a hoot about all the global attention that Modi is attracting. For them, Modi’s global charisma is mileage unduly drawn from India’s population size and growing economic strength. Their contention is that Modi is destroying India from what it has been and what it ought to become. 

From Patna to Bengaluru

The first gathering of opposition parties was held in Patna, in Bihar, on 23 June. The gathering did not cause much excitement. The inspiration behind the Patna meeting has been the spectacular showing of the Congress Party and its allies in the Karnataka State election in May. A second impetus is the concern among opposition parties that the BJP is using the state machinery to attack opposition leaders (e.g., Rahul Gandhi) and State governments led by the Congress or regional parties (e.g., Tamil Nadu, West Bengal). Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin reportedly called the opposition unity effort the “war cry of a united opposition” for the “rebirth of a secular democratic India.” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been the initial organizer behind the unity effort.

By the time the second gathering of the opposition leaders took place this week on July 18 in Bengaluru, Karnataka, the opposition alliance has picked up momentum. The number of parties attending rose from 15 in Patna to 26 in Bengaluru, and included state and national heavyweights: seven Chief Ministers, a number of former Chief Ministers, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi from the Congress, as well as the Secretaries of the two Communist Parties – Sitaram Yechury (CPM) and D. Raja (CPI). 

The objective has become clearer in Bengaluru: to form an alliance to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha election. An apparently unifying name has been formulated: the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance – to get the acronym INDIA – to counter Modi and his negation of secular India. Fight between Modi and I.N.D.I.A is fancied as a potentially winning slogan. Cross-party camaraderie is said to have evolved, especially involving the Congress and the West Bengal Trinamool Congress leaders. 

For housekeeping matters, the alliance will set up a 11-member co-ordination committee, with separate committees for specific actions, to develop consensus positions and eventually a common programme for the election. A common secretariat is also to be set up in Delhi which will also provide the war room for the election campaign. The next alliance meeting will be held in Mumbai, in Maharashtra, a state that is currently in a flux with criss-crossing shifts between political parties.     

The Bengaluru show has excited far greater interest than the initial meeting in Patna, and has elicited a hurried response from the governing BJP, which convened a meeting of its own NDA (National Democratic Alliance) in New Delhi, on the same day as the opposition conclave in Bengaluru. The BJP leaders led by the Prime Minister himself have been indulging in political trash talk to belittle the opposition efforts to form a new alliance. Trash talk aside, the ruling BJP found it necessary to call its (NDA) alliance members suddenly for a meeting after ignoring them as a group and without calling any meeting for over a year. 

From UPA TO INDIA

The fact of the matter is that the NDA is no alliance between political parties of comparable size. In the second Modi election victory in 2019, the BJP amassed on its own a whopping 301 seats out of the total 332 seats won by the NDA alliance, and a standalone majority in the Lok Sabha of 543 seats. All the others in the alliance contributed only 31 seats, of which Shiv Sena from Maharashtra accounted for 13 seats and everyone else contributing in single digits or nothing at all. Yet, the BJP needs the façade of an alliance to mitigate the harshness of its Hindutva core as it appeals to a broader Indian constituency at the polls. 

In contrast, the opposition alliance is a group of political parties of comparable sizes either at the national level or at the state level. The new alliance is really an expansion of the old United Progressive Alliance (UPA), an alliance of centre-left political parties led by the main Congress Party, that was formed after the 2004 general election in which the ruling BJP was surprisingly defeated and the Congress emerged with the largest number of seats – 218 seats to BJP’s 181 seats, but short of the requisite 272 seats for majority. 

The formation of the UPA enabled the Congress to form the new government with Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The alliance won again in 2009 but was defeated in 2014 when Narendra Modi scored his first national election victory as BJP leader. He won again in 2019 with greater success and higher seat count, and is now itching to go for a hat trick in 2024.    

Unlike the post-election UPA in 2004, the new ‘INDIA’ alliance is a pre-election bandwagon and is intended as a common opposition election vehicle for 2024. The new alliance is also more centrist and more broad-based than the centre-left orientation of the UPA. The influence of the two Communist Parties is also not likely to be as pronounced as it was in the UPA. While the enthusiasm among the participants is palpable, and their resolve to push back on the Modi government’s domestic machinations is unmistakable (mostly out of necessity), it is still going to be an uphill battle to defeat Modi at the national level. 

At the current Lok Sabha distribution of seats, with BJP-NDA accounting for 332 seats, the parties in the old UPA and the new INDIA total 142 seats, with Congress (49 seats), DMK (24 seats) and Trinamool Congress (23 seats) being the largest constituent members. As well, the BJP and its allies are in power in 17 Staes while the parties of the new INDIA alliance are in control in 11 States. So, for the opposition INDIA alliance it’s quite a steep hill to climb to secure a majority with at least 272 seats. To complicate matters, there are 11 parties with 62 members in parliament, who have not joined either of the two alliances. Three of them are also the governing parties in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha.  

Whatever might be the outcome in the upcoming elections, the formation of the new alliance shows a changing of minds among the opposition parties and their leaders, who have so far not been able to work together primarily because of personal egos, power struggles and electoral turf wars. They have finally realized that none of them standing alone has any chance of besting Modi. The new unity among them is a necessary condition for defeating Modi, but unity alone is not sufficient and there is no certainty that the unity will remain intact right  through to the elections. 

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Latest comments

  • 2
    2

    Connectivity between India and Sri Lanka everybody understands the entire growth is centered around people-to-people contact, on this basis some has sought the Indian Prime Minister’s assistance to prompt the Sri Lankan President Ranil to conduct elections to Provincial councils without further delay. Futher means people powered president.

  • 5
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    India is quite comfortable being perched on the fence. Otherwise do you thing that the crisis in Sri Lanka would go on unresolved.
    After Indra, India has gone blind. The maximum India does is to peck when agitated.

    • 2
      3

      Indira was even more cynical than her indifferent successors.
      She encouraged Tamil militancy to achieve her goal. She misled the militants into thinking that Tamil Eelam was just one more like Bangladesh.
      She cunningly pitted one group against the other in order to control all of them.
      Going blind may be better than being awake the way it was under Indira.

  • 2
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    You might think that Rajan Philips is trespassing the ‘property’ of Sivathasan. Not at all. Sivathasan specialises on Tamil Nadu.

    • 4
      0

      Does specialisation mean being correctly inforned?

  • 6
    0

    Waiting for local Sang Parivar members to respond, “Satyameva Jeyate”.

  • 2
    7

    The allegation that Modi has destroyed India is absolutely false. It will certainly be the BJPers who will be seen as the modern Pandavas as the BJP is more concerned about wiping out all malpractices by the Parties that formed INDIA. Modi is clear thinking on “Bhagavad Gita” – the hymn of God which speaks about the soul,
    It is neither born nor dies; Because it was, it will never be. Unborn, eternal, fixed and primordial; When the body is killed it is not killed. He is a Statesman so much as to cast himself as Krishna for the Great War. He has a team which resembles the great Pandavas. It has the ability to deal with the Manipur incident and the coalition that the opposition came together to name India. Meanwhile Modi’s regime has set foot in the idea of Akhand Bharat. Ranil Wickremesinghe himself said that India and Sri Lanka should create a bridge. This is a victory of India’s diplomacy. The dream of prophets like Rabindranath Tagore and Subramania Bharatiyar is not far off. This is a huge victory for the Modi government. The formation of the so-called alliance INDIA is a cunning plan to mislead the people in order to conceal their looted wealth by way of malpractices. In fact, the first Ten richest Parliamentarians of the Lok Sabha are from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

  • 1
    6

    Continued ……….
    The alliance INDIA is a ‘hardcore corruption convention’ as it was built over negativity and therefore cannot defeat the BJP. Mention should be made that in Karnataka people are regretting for not supporting the BJP as the Congress led alliance had not yet fulfilled the promise it gave. What is more surprising is a prominent supporter has withdrawn from the alliance and joined the BJP.

    As for the incident at Manipur, everyone must condemn the violence in Manipur and Modi had assured that adequate measures will be taken. At this juncture Hindus should understand the Indian politics better. A conspiracy against Modi is also suspected. A similar incident has occurred in Rajasthan earlier. But Congress has covered it up. Today the same incident occurred in the Andhra Pradesh Police Station where stripping and torturing tribal women in the name of investigation has caused shock. More over, the alliance INDIA is not strong because some parties have different ideologies. For instance the DMK and the RSS cannot exist together. Meanwhile, the BJP is expected to capture the entire Tamil Nadu. Recently the DMK MP Parivendar participated in the meeting chaired by BJP National President JP Nadda where Prime Minister Modi was present and owed allegiance to Modi.

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    7

    As far as the usuage of Indian currency is allowed in Sri Lanka is concerned, the Indian currency will continue to be popularized in Sri Lanka and the influence of the Sri Lankan currency will be lost in due course. Can people who have Savings Deposits in Sri Lanka convert to Indian Rupees? What happens to the money hoarded by people like Mahinda Rajapaksa? And does the usage of Indian currency move in Sri Lanka reflect the quiet emergence of a “Akhand Bharat”? The usage of Indian currency is a great victory for India and the Indians will beging to support the BJP. The cunning formation of the alliance of ‘INDIA’ will be overshadowed by this victory of BJP’s great diplomacy, in addition to Ranil Wickremasinghe’s nod for the construction of a bridge between India and Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, it is alleged that the DMK got into work extravagantly after obtaining a loan of Rupees 7,53,860 Crores from the Federal Government and people began to query about the economic growth in Tamil Nadu which is zero. As they have become vigilant, thousands of members from the DMK are joining the BJP, is another indication of BJP’s growing popularity in Tamil Nadu.

  • 1
    5

    The incident at Manipur has been distorted by the opposition parties. The “Kuki” ethnic group, who are the main cause of the Manipur riots, have been monopolizing the government’s ST category privileges, had come to India as refugees from the then “Burma” in 1968. The Congress Government at that time gave them privileges by including them in the ST category. There is a proverb: “When a villager comes and chases away the villager….” That is what is happening in Manipur now. Central government should control the Kuki people who are attacking them with an iron hand so that the “Maidheki” people of this land, who are the gentle people of this land, should not get the right of their motherland while the refugees and immigrants from somewhere are enjoying the monopoly privileges of the Indian government. The Central Government should identify before the people the foreign elements and their complicit domestic traitors who are trying to create unrest in the country and tear their veils. This is a sabotage to overthrow the Modi’s Government or to make it unpopular. Modi has now studied it and will restore normalcy in Manipur. Having realized the situation, the new unity in the so-called I.N.D.I.A alliance will be torn apart.

    • 0
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      You mean Manipur got distorted like in Lanka’s Black July. Give us a break. Will you???? In Manipur it took almost 2 months for Modi to acknowledge and utter just one sentence. Where as in Lanka you well know what JR told media. BJP member from Manipur resigned accusing center for their incompetence and negligence. There are few BJP members from other states who already have criticized inept Modi Government. Opposition has called for no confidence motion .
      ( as significant as NCM against Indra . G during emergency) You went through the same in Lanka and now enabling/ denying it elsewhere. HYPOCRITE

  • 1
    4

    chiv,
    Both Smriti Irani and Nirmala Sitharaman have given appropriate answers. None of the opposition parties spoke. Manipur incident was not the work of BJP. She condemned such uncivilized acts. Smriti Irani raised so many issues in Parliament, but opposition parties were dumbfolded. Why. It was a conspiracy of foreign elements to which opposition parties are suspected as mercenaries. This is quite different from Lanka’s Black July. We hope that Modi will come with all the details.

    • 0
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      ‘It was conspiracy of foreign elements to which opposition parties are suspected as mercenaries”, Ayathuray don’t be so naive, fortunately Smriti and Nirmala are not so dumb, to give stereotype Lankan answer, as yours. Bihar BJP spokes person Vinod Sharma resigned saying ” our PM is sleeping and doesn’t have the courage to sack the CM of Manipur, as a human being I couldn’t tolerate this anymore”. Mizoram BJP Vice President Vanramchhuanga resigned accusing his own party of ” massive demolition of churches during violence supported by the state and central governments”. Please explain as a victim, how is different from Black July ????

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