By Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI – Making a resolute attempt to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies, the leaders of 26 Opposition parties from across the country have joined hands to form a new coalition named as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), which will challenge the BJP’s hate agenda in the run-up to the 2024 general elections. The announcement was made at the Opposition’s second conclave in Bengaluru on July 18.
The name of the alliance was finalised after a prolonged brainstorming among the Opposition leaders. The new combine decided to constitute an 11-member coordination committee to evolve consensus positions on various issues faced by the country under the National Democratic Alliance rule. The next meeting of INDIA will be held in Mumbai, for which the date will be announced shortly.
The INDIA coalition will also set up a common secretariat in New Delhi for the election campaign management, while separate committees will be formed for specific issues. The Bengaluru conclave was the second one after the June 23 meeting in Patna, which was hosted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The coordination committee is also likely to take a decision on a common Prime Ministerial candidate of the Opposition.
The new coalition has identified some key issues which will be crucial for challenging the divisive campaign and communal rhetoric of the BJP with which it has achieved political success and won the two previous Lok Sabha elections. In a unanimous joint resolution adopted at the conclave, the Opposition parties pledged to safeguard the idea of India as enshrined in the Constitution, fight the BJP’s poisonous campaign against the minorities and stop the increasing crimes against women, Dalits, tribals and Kashmiri Pandits.
The Opposition parties also affirmed that a Caste Census should be implemented in the country for ensuring a fair treatment to all socially, educationally and economically backward communities. Seven Chief Ministers who attended the day-long conclave were Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Bhagwant Mann (Punjab), Hemant Soren (Jharkhand), Siddaramaiah (Karnataka), M.K. Stalin (Tamil Nadu), and Nitish Kumar (Bihar).
In its latest decision, the INDIA alliance has finalised ‘Jeetega Bharat’ (India will win) as the combine’s tagline, which will set the tone for their election campaign. It will also be replicated in several regional languages, as the Opposition leaders feel that that word ‘Bharat’ should feature in the campaign.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, who presided over the Bengaluru conclave, said the formation of the Opposition’s alliance was a great achievement, with which the attempts would be made to save democracy and the Constitution in the interest of people. Among the heavyweight leaders present at the meeting, the prominent ones were Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, D. Raja, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray, Akhilesh Yadav, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.
Kharge criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly, while affirming that he was afraid of the Opposition parties and was trying to bring together the parties which had moved away from the NDA. He admitted that there were some differences among the Opposition parties, but was quick to add that all of them had come together in the interest of the nation. “Our objective is to highlight the abysmal failure of the Narendra Modi government,” he said.
The joint resolution of the new coalition highlighted several issues which it said were part of an alternative political, social and economic agenda. The resolution promised to transform both the substance and style of governance which will be more consultative, participatory and democratic.
“The character of our republic is being severely assaulted in a systematic manner by the BJP. We are at a most crucial juncture in our nation’s history. The foundational pillars of the Indian Constitution – secular democracy, economic sovereignty, social justice and federalism – are being methodically and menacingly undermined,” the resolution stated.
The Opposition parties resolved to fight the systemic conspiracy by the BJP to target, persecute and suppress the fellow Indians. “Their poisonous campaign of hate has led to vicious violence against all those opposed to the ruling party and its divisive ideology. These attacks are not only violating constitutional rights and freedoms but also eroding the basic values upon which the Republic of India is founded – Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Justice, Political, Economic and Social,” the resolution said.
The new alliance also touched the subject of the continuing violence in Manipur and said the silence of PM Modi on the humanitarian tragedy was “shocking and unprecedented”. Besides, the Opposition leaders expressed their determination to combat and confront the continuing assault on the Constitution and on constitutional rights of democratically elected state governments. There is a deliberate attempt to weaken the federal structure of the country and the role of Governors & LGs in non-BJP ruled states has exceeded all constitutional norms, according to the resolution.
On the economic crisis, the resolution stated that the INDIA alliance would confront the ever-rising prices of essential commodities and record unemployment. “We oppose the reckless sale of the nation’s wealth to favoured friends. We must build a fair economy with a strong and strategic public sector as well as a competitive and flourishing private sector, in which the spirit of enterprise is fostered and given every opportunity to expand. The welfare of Kisan and Khet Mazdoor should always be the highest priority,” it said.
The Opposition parties which are the members of the new alliance are the Congress, All India Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Nationalist Congress Party, Janata Dal (United), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Aam Aadmi Party, Jarkhand Mukti Morcha, Shiv Sena (UBT), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party, J&K National Conference, J&K Peoples Democratic Party, CPI (ML), Rashtriya Lok Dal, Indian Union Muslim League, Kerala Congress (M), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, All India Forward Bloc and some other smaller parties.
By giving the new alliance the name of INDIA, the Opposition parties have sought to frame the 2024 electoral contest as a fight between the BJP and the rest of the country. A select group of leaders, who met after the dinner hosted by the Congress, took the decision in favour of the unique name giving the message of the unity of the nation. Many of them felt that INDIA would help in claiming back the narrative of nationalism, which has been snatched by the BJP and its mother organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
However, PM Modi, addressing a meeting in New Delhi which marked the completion of 25 years of NDA, said the alliances forged by the Opposition parties, as the one launched on Tuesday, were “wrecked by compulsions”. He said the Opposition was repeating the mistake of doubting the understanding of the common people and its behaviour showed that it had no respect for the public mandates.
With the BJP and its ideological fountainhead set to confront the INDIA alliance, the Opposition leaders will need to resolve the issue of seat-sharing while evolving a balance between the local interests in different states and the national ambitions. The scope for projecting Kharge as the first Dalit Prime Minister can also be explored if other parties are willing to accept the Congress in the leadership role in view of its contribution to the nation-building during the years after Independence.