By MR Lalu
The National Election 2024 is going to witness exceptionally unpredictable consolidation of parties. And the momentum began with the latest grouping of parties making neurotic alliances. Their alacrity proves their urgency and their expertise to jump ships holds them among the rarest breed of opportunists. Most of them once remained serious opponents and never missed a chance to backstab the other and now they have come together on a single stage with a barefaced grin. And there is that usual shaking of hands and bending of heads and also warm hugs which they think would bury their past karma forever. Deceitful smile on their faces tells how deeply shameless they are. And this time, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) moved on to reframe and redesign its consolidation with a new acronym INDIA. Some members in the grouping must have gone crazy on the visible glow of the acronym that resembles the name of the country, which they decided to declare after hefty political somersaults. They seem to have anticipated the benefits of such an acronym being put in use. Their pompous announcement of the new acronym came under severe criticism from the Assam Chief Minister, Hemant Vishwa Sharma. The most outspoken leader of the BJP sarcastically threw cold water on the new grouping calling the name INDIA a consequence of the colonial aggression. He went further saying the fight is between INDIA and BHARAT. An interesting factor that sticks out with all its radical mordacity is that the opposition has to set the field right for a real battle with a reinvigorated National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Imagine, how formidably powerful their opponent is, the Prime Minister, who could successfully force the world to change their old narratives about India and for all reasons, he holds the reign tighter than usual with all his initiatives scripting a veritable history for India.
A genuine voter with a fair knowledge about the schemes and projects run by the Modi government knows the fact that the man at the helm of India’s administration enjoys the faith of a large section of the country’s electorate. So stitching alliances on a tattered cloth is the INDIA conglomeration of the opposition is all about. Now the prominent question which is emanating from the mohallas of political pundits is, whether this stitching on the tattered cloth or the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) of 26 opposition parties would be marked as an intelligent design or a mockery of the fabric that Indian politics is woven into. What you carry away from the INDIA gathering in Bengaluru is the musings of a few disconsolate leaders appealing to amicably pull their personal aspirations and make adjustments with downhearted minds to heal the wounds that they were left with, when the political storm of 2014 overturned their ships altogether.
Eccentrically enough, whispers of such a grouping had forced the ruling side to once again broom and gather its old allies who remained insignificant and sidelined. The NDA meeting with 38 parties in Delhi was, strictly speaking, a barricading process well before the elections. Though its allies are dwarfs as they have a scanty representation in the parliament, the BJP moved very fast this time with its political shrewdness. Probably its calculations gave it an unpleasantly cold and rheumatic feel. And for the INDIA, Sonia Gandhi’s reappearance from her political vanaprastha for the meeting in Bengaluru defines her role as a catalyst. She would be instrumental in holding the hands of the regional warlords with national ambitions. At the same time, she would sensibly make them feel that her party is away from declaring a potential candidate for the powerful post. Do not forget, the Congress has gained nothing solid to pile in its political exchequer from the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Shouldn’t you be surprised when you see the rivals of Bengal the TMC and the Left hold hands? Pitching an atrocious fight in the streets of West Bengal during the recent local body elections, rivalry between parties spilt much blood across the state. Their political barbarity killed more than forty people. They seem to have learnt their lessons, at least for the National Election and became more pragmatic and self-preserving. For the state elections, they would once again take their arms and armors and slit the other’s throat.
Elections in India are battles between narratives and perceptions. Narratives keep changing between regional and national issues and the pattern of voting also does change. The winning party in the state election would sometimes cut a sorry figure in the National Election. The BJP while balancing its optics has the advantage of a prominent face. Whereas the INDIA consolidation of the opposition still wouldn’t open their cards. Nevertheless, its behavior at this juncture is appreciable and it seems it gained some discipline and purpose. The Congress has no reason to be arrogant as it knows where the shoe pinches. The BJP with its latest coalition adjustments and reckoning is trying to ensure a more powerful comeback. It has not so much to sacrifice while its final chiseling of seats will take place. But the opposition’s INDIA has a bitter nut to chew before the elections and there lies the real conflict. Being the ruling party of Delhi and Punjab, would the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in principle and practice get ready to sacrifice its slice of bread to the coalition partners, especially the Congress? This is quite unlikely to happen and the situation would simmer further as parties register their reluctance to sacrifice their seats for their allies. See the situation in West Bengal where the TMC, Congress and the Left had always been at loggerheads. It is unpredictable at present to read from their new bonhomie that if they would patch up their differences and sacrifice their interests. How long such a feeble stitching stays remains to be seen.
Though KC Rao of the BRS was emerging as a self-styled coordinator of the coalition in the beginning, he seemed to have lost his sheen throughout the latest development. While the opposition consolidates its collective power to oust one single individual from the power corridors altogether, what they significantly failed to do is to present a credible perspective to the electorate. Antagonistic parties coming together for a scanty purpose is suggestive of their predicament. More than anything, for them, this gathering of contrasting ideas is the result of a realization. With their existence being in danger, INDIA is the last blade of grass that they would desperately hold on to survive. The BJP at present is in an advantageous position with its mascot Modi leading from the front and with its endless list of initiatives to enunciate from. Irrespective of these, its permanent plank, the Hindutva would take a pronounced shape as the elections near. When its oldest promise the Ram Temple at Ayodhya becomes a reality, the saffron party is expected to once again gain its happy numbers with its revamped alliance piling up a few more seats. Whatever, the wind before the final storm began.
(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author.)