By Rajan Narayan

THE Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), the opposition alliance or “gathbandhan” is yet to get its act together. The elections are almost here. The parliamentary elections for the Lok Sabha are scheduled to be held in April 2024. The notification is expected to come any time soon. April is just two months away. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already preparing the ground for a third term in office. Modi is confident that the BJP will get more than 400 seats in the new parliament.
Modi is heavy relying on the consecration of the new Ram temple at Ayodhya to consolidate votes from the majority Hindu community. It is now being claimed that Modi took a vow 32 years ago to build the Ram temple at Ayodhya. The inauguration of Ram temple has become a mega event and it will likely be celebrated like a grand Diwali all over the country and abroad.
The Opposition alliance seems to have no sense of urgency. It is still under the shadow of the Congress party. This despite the fact that Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have long since lost interest in the Hindi heartland. This was proved by the BJP sweeping the northern states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Congress is only alive in the two southern states of Telangana and Karnataka. The I.N.D.I.A groups seem to have agreed that Congress president, Mallikarjun Kharge, should be the convener of I.N.D.I.A
There’s a proposal that Bihar’s chief minister, Nitish Kumar, should also be confirmed as chairperson of the alliance. Nitish Kumar is reported to be unhappy with the election of Mallikarjun Kharge as chairperson of the I.N.D.I.A political groups.

THE meetings of the alliance are not regularly attended by all the Opposition members. The recent meeting was to appoint chairperson and conveners and it was attended by only ten of the 22 parties foaming the alliance. Key alliance members like the Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin did not attend the meeting. Uddhav Thackeray seems lukewarm about the alliance. There is however no alternative to the alliance.
At the end of the day, Congress is still the largest single party making up I.N.D.I.A.
The NCP leader in his 80s is Sharad Pawar and he is still interested in the leadership of I.N.D.I.A and India. On his side, despite his stature, Sharad Pawar has the reputation of being a deal maker. Sharad Pawar would probably be more successful than Sonia or Rahul Gandhi in stitching together a grand alliance. What is important to the alliance is that all the Opposition leaders should agree to seat sharing. If the I.N.D.I.A alliance partners fight with each other it will collapse beneath all its heavyweights.

THE problem in this country is that there are too many leaders and few followers. It is the regional parties which dominate India. The biggest groups in India are the Trinamool Congress, AIDMK led by MK Stalin and JDS led by Nitish Kumar. The Alliance is making the mistake of not giving importance to the regional parties. It would be more profitable for the alliance to stitch together a coalition of all the regional parties.
Outside of the regional parties, one of the recognized and organized parties like the CPM, has mass following except perhaps in Kerala. CPM was once very powerful in West Bengal and ruled the state for the first 15 years. But with Mamata Banerjee sweeping into power the party has somehow lost its power to the Trinamool Congress party. The Congress has left these challenges to resolved themselves.
The other group which plays a significant role is the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party. AAP has extended its area of influence from New Delhi to Punjab also. It has successfully contested elections in other states. Even in Goa AAP is the only party other than BJP and Congress which managed to elect an MLA to the assembly. Indeed, in the next assembly election with the Congress in decline it is AAP that should play a crucial role in the run-up for the parliamentary election. BJP does not seem to have any major challengers.
Therefore there is a sense of fatalism over the future of the I.N.D.I.A groups which have come together under one umbrella to save democracy and its constitution. At least by now it should have cemented and set up an apex committee to contest all the seats in parliament. If they continue to fight with each other it will only help the BJP. As of now that is despair in the alliance.

THERE should be opposition unity to take on Narendra Modi. Even if the alliance manages to agree on proper seat sharing it can seriously affect the BJP’s chances. Any hope that the incompetency will help the BJP is a matter of delight for states like the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan when it comes to the parliamentary elections. The BJP seems to have consolidated the majority vote bank.
The BJP has also reached out to places where the Christian community plays a major role as in the Northeast and in Goa. The BJP’s weak point is that it has not been able to manage the minority Muslim community which is more than 10% of the population.
It is the regional parties which will dominate the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Now the challenge is to ensure that BJP does not get the 2/3rd majority that will enable it to re-wright the secular Constitution of India as defined by Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Unfortunately in India we do not have a democratic precedent of limiting prime minister’s post for two terms only as in the USA. If Narendra Modi is returns as prime minister like Hitler in Germany he may abolish parliament altogether. If he gets over 400 seats it will be a major threat to any secular democracy in India as we have understood it so far.

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