A coalition of over 28 opposition parties in India has come together to collectively contest the 2024 national elections in a bid to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from securing a third consecutive victory.
This coalition, named the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), recently announced its intention to work out arrangements for sharing electoral seats in various states to avoid dividing votes in favour of the BJP. A statement from the coalition reads, “We, the INDIA parties, hereby resolve to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections together as far as possible”. Seat-sharing agreements in different states will be initiated promptly and resolved amicably, the statement says.
India’s national elections are scheduled for around May. Key opposition leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress party, along with Sharad Pawar, Arvind Kejriwal, Sitaram Yechury, and Lalu Prasad Yadav, convened last week in Mumbai for a two-day meeting. Their objective was to ensure a direct contest by fielding one opposition candidate against each BJP candidate in every voting district.
The opposition parties formed this alliance in June, and their primary focus is challenging the economic performance of Modi’s party, addressing rising unemployment, and addressing various domestic issues, including the growing anti-Muslim sentiment. These parties, some of which have traditionally been regional competitors and have been fragmented at the national level, collectively hold fewer than half of the 301 seats currently held by the BJP in the 542-member lower house of parliament. The coalition encompasses a wide spectrum of political groups, including India’s largest national opposition party, the Congress party, as well as influential regional parties like the Trinamool Congress, led by the popular Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, which governs the state of West Bengal, and the Aam Aadmi Party, in power in Delhi and Punjab.
The leaders of the parties expressed confidence that their united efforts would bring about a change, emphasizing that they would mobilize support across different regions. They also criticized the BJP’s authoritarian rule and highlighted the spread of communalism and hate crimes.
Sambit Patra, a BJP spokesman, criticized the opposition parties, suggesting that their alliance was superficial and would ultimately result in internal disputes during the 2024 elections.
Modi’s term has coincided with economic recovery post-COVID-19, but also with rising unemployment, attacks by Hindu nationalists against minority groups, and a narrowing space for dissent. India’s press freedom has deteriorated, as noted in rankings by Reporters Without Borders, and funding disparities in electoral politics have been pointed out.
Modi has faced criticism for implementing policies perceived as anti-Muslim, including revoking the semi-autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir and enacting citizenship laws seen as discriminatory. However, analysts acknowledge that removing Modi from power will be a challenging task, as he remains immensely popular and his party has a significant presence in various states and parliament’s lower house.