Thursday, July 18, 2024

Two political conclaves preparing for 2024 elections!

The electoral battle of 2024 is going to be 38 versus 26 or consolidation vs. accommodation. So far so good as far as opposition parties are concerned. They appear to have put fear in the BJP leadership and won the first round. The caution they exercised in Patna and Bengaluru is exemplary. Mere Modi-bashing is not going to be helpful. The opposition parties, which successfully named their alliance as INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive India) and made some noise about the policies and programmes, have to come up with an alternative vision.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi repeated his take that the battle is between BJP’s idea of India and the opposition’s idea of India. The comments made by Mamata Bannerjee, Kejriwal and Uddav Thakre also confirm what Rahul said.

That there are two distinct ideas of India is established beyond doubt. The idea of India entertained by team INDIA is the same old idea of India which includes secularism and inclusiveness. The idea of India perceived by NDA is that of Hindutva and exclusiveness. Beating the NDA idea of India is not going to be that easy. When you look at the 38 parties that attended the Delhi conclave of NDA it is obvious that those many parties, although most of them are very small, are prepared to do business with BJP with its core Hindutva bias intact. The parties in the Delhi conclave appear to be prepared to put up with authoritarian streak of Narendra Modi with his personality cult, agree with the BJP version of vikas narrative besides siding with Hindutva and exclusiveness. The challenge before the 26 parties that assembled in Bengaluru for two days recently is to come up with a vision that would address the aspirations of the bulging middleclass and the sulking backward classes beside historically exploited Dalits and Adivasis. It is not going to be easy. The old Leftist philosophy or the social justice plank of Janata Dal would not work. It has to be progressive and productive at the same time.

The BJP which came to depend less and less on the allies and allow some of them to exit NDA since it had won impressive victories in 2014 and 2019 was forced to invite so many small partners. It is the result of the way the opposition parties have conducted themselves in a very methodical way. The NDA, which is in its 25th year since 1998 when Atal Behari Vajpayee established the alliance, has realized the fact that it is facing two-term incumbency factor. After the rout in Karnataka, the BJP has recognized the ground reality that in South India it cannot hope to make fresh gains. In 130 seats in Lok Sabha to be filled from five Sourthern States and Puducherry, it would not be able to fare any better that what it did in 2019. But it has friends in Telangana, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. In Andhra, all the three parties-YSRCP, TDP and Jana Sena are in league with the BJP at the centre. In Odisha the BJP can depend on the support of Naveen Patnaik. In Telangana, the ruling BRS (earlier TRS) will be criticizing the BJP only till the Assembly elections are over in November-December 2023. Later it will play a different game depending on its interests. Most probably it would end up supporting NDA. BSP of Mayawati is an unknown quantity but it is likely to fight the elections independently and keep its options open on aligning with the NDA or INDIA after the poll depending on the situation obtained at that point in time. Janata Dal (S) of Karnataka which was not invited, like the BJD, YSRCP, BRS, BSP and the TDP,  by either conclave will join forces with the BJP in time for 2024 elections.  

The partners in the INDIA are strong in their respective states. Aam Admi Party in Delhi and Punjab, DMK in Tamil Nadu, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, JD(U) and RJD in Bihar, Samajwadi Party in UP, NCP and Shiv Sena (Uddhav) in Maharashtra, JMM in Jarkhand have their powerful presence.  Mahabooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah would have their strength in Jammu & Kashmir. The Congress has its strong presence in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Telangana.  It can hope to partner with regional parties in other states. The Congress is weak in UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. It is somewhat weak in Gujarat.

The regional parties have been proving time and again that they are best placed to fight against the BJP. In fact, the main fight is going to be between the BJP and the regional parties. Congress is going to fight the BJP face to face in about 200 constituencies. In about a hundred more constituencies it can hope to field its candidates in adjustment with the regional parties. If it can win fifty percent of the seats it contests, it will be a big win for the good old party.  Just like in 2004, it can lead the alliance though Kharge, the Congress president, declared in Bengaluru that the party is not interested in the post of PM.

It will be consolidation on the part of the opposition parties as against the accommodation by the BJP. The Congress is known for its accommodiative spirit. Unlike the BJP under Vajpayee, the BJP under Modi’s watch is less accommodative. While the INDIA leadership has to undertake ego-massaging to placate leaders like Kejriwal and Mamata Bannerjee whose self-confidence borders on arrogance, the BJP has to tone down its aggressive campaign of Hindutva. It is going to be testing time for both the alliances.  Modi described NDA in the Delhi conclave as a “beautiful rainbow where no party is big or small.” When the big brother known for his cult politics is saying it, the friends would take the message with a pinch of salt. But for the sake of a third term, Modi is capable of bending backwards to accommodate his allies. A year from now is going to be extremely interesting for observers and excruciatingly painful for the players.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor


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