Race to Delhi

2024 will be a historic battle as Opposition parties are coming together to ally against the ruling NDA government.


India Today

Sweety Mohanta

Written by Sweety Mohanta, Harshita Jha and Pratiksha Ghosh Sweety Mohanta, Harshita Jha, Pratiksha Ghosh

2024 will be a historic battle as Opposition parties are coming together to ally against the ruling NDA government.

With a new rift created in Maharashtra, it will be interesting to watch how the Opposition will deal with the ‘Pawar’ equation. As the country waits for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, as many as 32 leaders belonging to different Opposition parties met together at Patna to sharpen their anti-BJP spear. After a four-hour-long discussion, it was announced that all the 15 parties present at the meeting will be fighting unitedly. Now, issues such as seat sharing and party-wise split will be discussed later in the second meeting to be held in Bengaluru on July 17-18.

Trinamool Congress leader in Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien said, “The events in Maharashtra strengthen our resolve further in working towards bringing democracy to defeat dictatorship in 2024.”

“After a hugely successful All-Opposition meeting in Patna, we will be holding the next meeting in Bengaluru on 17 and 18 July 2023. We are steadfast in our unwavering resolve to defeat the fascist and undemocratic forces and present a bold vision to take the country forward,” tweeted Congress general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal.

2024 will clear two things - if Prime Minister Narendra Modi will secure a third term and earn a place beside Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi as the only leaders to win three consecutive terms, or if Opposition parties can set aside their differences and come together to put up a united front. India has a very busy election schedule ahead, with Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana with state polls being slotted for the second half of this year, followed by Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

Some of the state polls will have a secondary influence on the general assembly election, like Gujarat - the home state of both the Prime Minister and Home Minister. This year in May, Congress bagged 135 seats in Karnataka, scoring an extensive victory against the saffron juggernaut Bharatiya Janata Party and its ‘double engine’ approach across the state. It was a significant win for the party because Karnataka was the only southern state to have BJP as the ruling party, and this will set the path, even in a small way, towards the general elections next year. There were a lot of factors adding up to the party’s victory but Congress spearheaded their pro-people agenda through BJP’s majoritarian approach to win over voters. As Shemin Joy wrote for the Deccan Herald, “The grand old party is making social justice its central pillar for its campaign.”

Is the opposition marching ahead?

Alongside Congress, there are Arvind Kejriwal’s growing political ambitions and Mamata Banerjee’s formidability as well, with both trying to gather as many allies as possible by having meetings and discussions. The Opposition Meeting was the first step towards creating a joint opposition. According to a survey by India TV-Matrize News Communication, it will not be easy for the Opposition to defeat the NDA government though.

“There is no big face as of now who can strongly challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Opposition today, although they are all disparate elements, wants to come together. So far, such a move has not happened,” former Associate Editor at The Hindu Mr Baba Prasad said. “Though a lot of political parties are having meetups and discussions regarding the upcoming elections, there is almost no chance that they can ally because of their ideological differences”.

“This may be similar to the 1977 elections where Morarji Desai from the Janata Party became the Prime Minister after a coalition of several parties came together. It was the first time that Indian National Congress (INC) was voted out in the general elections after independence. But the point to remember is that the coalition government formed under the cover of emergency fell apart. This is bound to happen if competitive parties with completely different ideologies try to make an impossible merger possible”, he added.

The Political Ground so far

The people of this country have had a lot of conflicts with the ruling government. There have been many major protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the removal of Article 370, the Agnipath scheme, demonization, and farmer's protests to name a few. These few cases led to the creation of some differences between the NDA government and the common people. Misunderstanding of the policies by the public has led to violence as well. Despite all this, the BJP-led NDA still can overpower any form of coalition by the Opposition parties.

“There are several things that happened in the last five years which have put the ruling party at a disadvantage. Starting from demonetisation to Article 370. These are strong points for the Opposition. And the biggest thing that has happened to the BJP is the Opposition trying to brand it as the majoritarian party. That is how the Opposition will try to prevent the minorities from having any sympathy for the BJP,” he said.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and Bajrang Dal are very strong supporters of the BJP and they have been one of the main reasons to bring the ruling government into a negative light.

In the case of Telangana, upcoming elections in the state can be expected to be won by either Telangana Rashtra Samithi, YSR-Congress, or the Telugu Desam Party. All being local parties, the parties that are in a strong position in the centre have almost no presence in this state. Neither INC nor BJP can be seen in the political picture of Telangana.

On the other hand, INC and BJP are the only tough competitors in the elections that will take place in Rajasthan. The conflict between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot can work to the advantage of the BJP in the coming elections. Vasundhara Raje Scindia, who was the former chief minister there, might be the chief minister candidate for the Opposition party in the coming elections.

The Situation in Jammu and Kashmir

The state of Jammu and Kashmir was split into two Union territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh—on August 5, 2019, after the Centre abolished Article 370, which granted the state its special status. On 19th June, Jammu and Kashmir completed their five-year period without an elected government. The NDA's boast of India being the "mother of democracy", was mocked by the valley's politicians as the political situation in Jammu and Kashmir appears to be as cagey as ever.

Omar Abdullah, Vice President of the National Conference (NC), remarked in a satirical tweet on Monday, 19 June, "Democracy in India ends where Jammu and Kashmir begins. 'Democracy is in our veins, it is in our culture'; ‘India is the mother of democracy’; and ‘India is the temple of democracy’. Great sounding phrases that the international community lap up and regurgitate ad-nauseam."

People's Democratic Party (India) spokesperson Mohit Bhan tweeted, "Entire nation and its leadership must hang their heads in shame for calling itself the mother of democracy. J&K languishes under central rule for a staggering 5 years, with the last election held 9 years ago. The blatant disregard for people's rights and representation is appalling."

During the height of the insurgency, from January 19, 1990, to October 1996, the federal government had control of Jammu and Kashmir for six years and nine months. It came to an end in 1996 when Farooq Abdullah retook office. After the H.D. Deve Gowda administration at the centre promised the state more autonomy, Farooq consented to run in the elections that year.

All political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have been asking the Election Commission to declare the dates for assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, and the chorus in favour of holding these elections is growing. The people need to wait and watch.

The upcoming elections will truly be historic and significant as they will be a defining moment for parties and their respective states, along with the country itself. When the people vote out a party to bring in someone else, they not only change the government but embrace a new political ideology as well. Every party comes with its form of governance and it is up to the people to choose which has lived out its purpose and which needs to take over. 2023 and 2024 will, once again, give the people the opportunity to reflect on these past few years and choose who to vote for.

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