By G Krishna Mohan Rao*
Bengaluru/New Delhi: The Opposition alliance has finally got a name — INDIA. The opposition party leaders today agreed on the acronym that stands for “Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance”. The leaders further announced that the 26 opposition parties that came together in the Bengaluru meeting will jointly fight the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Announcing the name after the two-day meeting today, the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said an 11-member coordination committee will be formed and the same will decide in the next meeting in Mumbai. Besides Kharge, the Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, as well as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) chief Uddhav Thakre also addressed the media.
Sources said that more than 46 leaders of at least 25 parties participated in the meeting and debated on the name of the new alliance. Four names were proposed for the grand alliance. The names included Progressive Democratic Alliance (PDA), United Progressive Alliance 3 (UPA 3), National Progressive Alliance (NPA) and Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA). Sources said all parties were asked to suggest the name of the front which should have the word “India” in it. On choosing the “INDIA” name, Kharge said it was the alliance’s first achievement that they all agreed on it.
Things have become clear with the formation of an alliance—INDIA, which now challenges Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the coming general elections. After the press meet, many opposition leaders said that the two-day meet was “ successful “ in charting out the future course. Kharge elaborated that soon they are going to announce the dates for the Mumbai venue and there the 11-member coordination committee would be formed. He also said that a secretariat will be set up for campaign management and committees for specific issues will also be formed.
On the other hand, the new alliance is also expected to issue a joint statement about the Bengaluru meet on July 17 and 18, 2023, and the way forward. Significantly, at the press meet, many opposition leaders made it clear that although they had some differences in each state politically, they had kept those behind for the sake of opposition unity. With one voice, leaders at the press meet said that the BJP government wants to destroy democracy in this country and wants to destroy the Constitution. “They are using autonomous bodies like the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Vigilance and other such institutions against the opposition party leaders and workers,” the leaders said.
Meanwhile, as many as 38 political parties under the umbrella of the NDA to mark its 25th anniversary met today in New Delhi, where Modi said he was “grateful to the old people who have connected with us, and welcome the new ones”. He emphasised that no party was “big or small” in the NDA. He pointed out that the NDA increased its vote share from approximately 38 per cent in 2014 to 45 per cent in 2019, and predicted it will surpass 50 per cent in the upcoming 2024 elections. During the NDA meet, Chirag Paswan, who rejoined the NDA yesterday, hugged his estranged uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras, who had engineered a split in Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) formed by Chirag’s father and former union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Modi, they said that the government was “rattled “ as 26 opposition parties came together in the Bengaluru meeting. That is the reason, Modi is now calling an NDA meeting with 30 parties. “We do not know where these 30 parties have come from. Whether they are registered? I am in Parliament. I have not heard of so many parties. Earlier they never cared, many left but now one by one, he is calling and meeting. His party president is going to each state” observed the Congress chief Kharge.
The Congress chief further said that leaders gathered in Bengaluru “do not want to become something”. The aim of the alliance, he said, will be to highlight important issues one by one and the leaders will move in the entire country to highlight the “failure” of the BJP government.
By and large, the new alliance, political pundits feet is very well crafted and eyes a key role from behind the scenes. After the victory in Karnataka, the Congress took the lead to convey a positive message to opposition parties, which were rudderless. The mega show was held in a private hotel with Congress playing the host.
The meeting primarily focused on six issues in order to consolidate the Opposition alliance. A serious discussion was held about seat sharing and allocation between the Opposition alliances. Leaders proposed that whichever party is stronger in a given state should get more recognition. On this occasion, the leaders also explained the political situation in the respective states. It was felt that a formula should be worked out after the assembly polls are held in five states in November-December, 2023.
A discussion was held on the formation of a sub-committee to formulate a CMP (common minimum programme). It will be a bridge between Opposition alliances for the next Lok Sabha elections and will work to communicate with each other about alliance developments. Discussion was also held on a separate sub-committee for organising joint programmes in states and organising large public meetings in the days to come. Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) issues were also discussed at length. It was decided to make a representation to Election Commission and make some submissions on the present system.
Sources said that the last night’s dinner hosted by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah at Taj West End Hotel was productive. In this sense, Mamata and Sonia Gandhi were closely seated next to each other and they had a conversation that lasted 20 minutes. The dinner meeting was a “real get-together” of leaders, who are making statements against each other. Arvind Kejriwal mixed with all the leaders of the Congress Party, who were criticising the Delhi CM almost on a daily basis.
Janata Dal (United) supremo and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav, National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah, Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav, Communist Party of India – Marxist leader Sitaram Yechuri, Communist Party of India leader D Raja, Omar Abdullah, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Vaiko, and Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti too participated in the meeting.
*Senior journalist (With inputs from global bihari bureau)