26 opposition parties to take on 38-party ruling alliance in India’s 2024 elections

By Mayank Chhaya-

While politicians in the U.S. fuss and fret over whether there should be a third political party, India is preparing for a grand electoral fight between two alliances, one consisting of 26 parties and the other 38.

Ironically, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which will have ruled for ten years by the 2024 parliamentary elections, that is going to depend on the alliance with 38 parties. This notwithstanding the fact that Modi has been known to say that he alone is formidable enough for the entire opposition, the implication being that he does not need the support of other parties.

However, the reality of 26 opposition parties cobbled into an alliance by the Indian National Congress Party appears to have made the prime minister sit up and take notice. The opposition alliance came together in Bengaluru today under the somewhat labored acronym INDIA or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. The acronym may have the feel of an unimaginative political hack’s slapdash creation, as a challenge to Modi and his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) it seems to pack considerable punch.

In a measure of that potential threat the BJP also quickly called a meeting of its own 38-party alliance in New Delhi even while some of its constituents mock the acronym INDIA.

That 64 political parties will slug it out for the votes of electorate of 600 million plus people in 2024 may seem extraordinary to an American watcher but it is quite routine in India, where according to its Election Commission there are 6 national parties, 54 state parties, and 2,597 unrecognized parties.

Although within INDIA there are parties that are antagonistic to one another, this coming together was explained by Congress Party president Mallikarjun Kharge saying, “We are setting aside our political differences to save democracy.” At a news conference to announce the alliance various leaders gave versions of how they believe the BJP and Modi were stifling opposition voices and violating the letter and spirit of the country’s constitution.

INDIA faces an uphill battle taking on the NDA with the BJP controlling more than 300 seats in the 543-member parliament. Despite mounting attacks on him by the opposition Modi remains highly popular. His party acolytes frequently boast that the next election is as good as won by them and there may not be any prospect for the opposition even in 2029.

However, there is serious belief that if INDIA manages to field one-on-one candidates against the NDA rivals across the country, they could defeat them considering there is a great deal of disquiet across the country over several existential issues such as rampaging inflation and high unemployment along with a certain amount of communal toxicity whipped up through social media.

Despite its latest defeat in the Karnataka state elections, the BJP rules in 15 out of 28 states and eight federally administered territories either on its own or with coalitions. It has deep coffers with a reported cash reserves of 19.17 billion rupees or over $233 million, which by the U.S. standards is rather minuscule but makes it the country’s richest party.

The acronym INDIA is politically fraught. BJP leaders are known to make a distinction between India and Bharat, preferring the latter to the former, on the grounds that Bharat is the historical entity rooted into hearts and minds of its people unlike India which is a western construct used by the political elites. There are already barbs doing the rounds of social media on that distinction. On the opposition’s side, they are already raising questions such as “Can the BJP take on INDIA?”

It is still early days to determine whether INDIA will shake up NDA but if the BJP’s response is any indication, they want to take no chances. There is every indication that 2024 will be an intensely fought elections where India’s core cultural and political identity will be a top issue at the front and center apart from the many existential crises.

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