The 26 opposition parties in India, which met in Bengaluru over two days, have resolved to bring out an “alternative political, social and economic agenda” to counter the BJP, even as seat-sharing arrangements to take on the ruling party on the ground remained a challenging hurdle.
The parties, including national and regional parties have been splintered at the national level, account for less than half the 301 seats the BJP has in the 542-member lower house of parliament. They have, however, sought to sink their differences to challenge BJP after Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party, was convicted in a defamation case and disqualified from parliament in March.
While the multi-party front gave itself a name – INDIA, or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance – proposed by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, Bihar CM and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar asked how a political alliance could be named INDIA. Caught by surprise, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury, D Raja and G Devarajan were not immediately convinced either.
Meanwhile, as all eyes were on the Opposition and NDA meetings in Bengaluru and Delhi, parties like BSP, BJD, JD(S), Akali Dal, BRS, YSRCP, INLD, AIMIM and AIUDF stayed away from either due to the politics at play in their states, their equations with specific parties, or their desire to come across as neutral.
Their campaign to unite all parties opposed to the ruling BJP got a shot in the arm in May when Congress trounced BJP in a key state election, exceeding expectations and gaining fresh momentum ahead of more state elections due this year and national elections in April-May 2024.
Although Modi remains popular and is widely expected to win a third term without much difficulty, opposition leaders say a joint campaign and straight, one-on-one constituency contests against BJP could turn the tables.
“Everyone has agreed that we will all work together in the interest of the country,” Nitish Kumar, chief minister of the eastern state of Bihar, of which Patna is the capital, told reporters.
“There is agreement to go together, there has been agreement to fight the elections together,” said Kumar, who hosted the meeting, adding that a second meeting would be held next month to seal Friday’s discussions.
Gandhi said the fight against BJP was an “ideological battle” and opposition parties were united in it.
“There certainly will be some differences among us but we have decided we will work together, work with flexibility,” Gandhi said.
India’s opposition parties have formed alliances to challenge governments – led by both Congress and BJP – in the past and win elections but have a mixed record of sticking together and running governments smoothly.
The Congress party has asserted that the Opposition unity would be “a game changer” for the Indian political scenario. This comes as the BJP conducted a grand show of strength of its alliance with party president J P Nadda asserting that 38 constituents of the ruling NDA attended the meeting.