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The road ahead for I.N.D.I.A

The big question staring the Opposition in the face is whether the competing interests of the partners would allow it to stay together for the next five years.
Last Updated : 14 June 2024, 20:33 IST

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Buoyant, upbeat, optimistic, confident – choose any word, and it would aptly describe the mood in I.N.D.I.A after the bitterly fought Lok Sabha elections. The alliance may not have enough seats to usurp power but some of its members now want to unseat the Narendra Modi government, which they believe is on the crutches in its third term. Others in the alliance insist on caution though.

The adrenaline rush is understandable, but the big question staring the Opposition in the face is whether the competing interests of the partners would allow it to stay together for the next five years.

Questions are bound to rise as the bloc will face Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Haryana, and Maharashtra by early next year, and some prominent allies are all set to break ranks to fight against each other. They say that the alliance was only for the Lok Sabha elections.

Despite being aware of these future divisions, people did vote for the bloc. But the question remains whether they will accept it in the future.

In Delhi, the AAP will not cede space to the Congress in the Assembly polls slated for early 2025. Similarly, the Congress has made it clear that it does not need an ally in Haryana to win the state polls to be held later this year. In the just-concluded general elections, the Congress and AAP were allies in these two states.

The Lok Sabha polls itself revealed cracks in Jammu and Kashmir, which is expected to see Assembly polls by September 30. It is to be seen whether PDP will be accommodated by the bloc in the Assembly polls though the National Conference refused to cede a seat to PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti.

Maharashtra is where the I.N.D.I.A bloc is unlikely to see much trouble, but seat-sharing negotiations are all set to be tricky with a resurgent Congress, which won 13 seats – the most among the MVA allies – itching to make claims for more Assembly seats. This is likely to upset the Shiv Sena (UBT) more than the NCP. Congress has already flexed its muscles with state chief Nana Patole demanding more seats though the party’s central leadership has asked him to tone down.

The poll outcome has resulted in churning in the extended NCP and Shiv Sena families amid murmurs of the MLAs linked to Ajit Pawar and Eknath Shinde getting in touch with Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray.

If the poll-bound states have troubles, the bloc also has national dilemmas. Aspirations and impatience mark the mood in the alliance after Congress, Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party performed well cornering the BJP in their areas of strength.

Though Congress has improved its numbers in direct contests against the BJP, it is yet to achieve a critical mass that could bring it closer to the orbit of power.

Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh had not returned a single Congress MP in 2024 and if it hopes to defeat BJP in the future, it will need victories in these states as well as improve its standing in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

West Bengal will be another state that will be under intense scrutiny. Will Left and Congress continue to remain allies, or will the latter move to the Trinamool Congress camp? A senior TMC leader said, “If Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had not insisted on more than two seats, the alliance would have worked, and the BJP would have been reduced to six seats.”

As the undeclared leader of the bloc, it is also to be seen whether the Congress would continue to be accommodative like it was in Lok Sabha seat sharing. It contested for 328 seats, the least it has in its electoral history.

It would have to take forward the consensus approach with a demanding ally like the TMC and a stronger Samajwadi Party, which improved its numbers from five in 2019 to 37 this time to emerge the third largest party in Parliament.

The TMC has already upped the ante, saying it “won’t be a photocopy of someone else’s strategy” and wants a speedy attack on the Modi government. “We are not waiting in the lobby. Our driving style is more aggressive. Maybe some are not used to it,” a TMC leader said after the post-results meeting of the bloc.

With the Opposition hoping for the collapse of the NDA government owing to its inherent contradictions, one of the challenges for I.N.D.I.A would be how to counter Narendra Modi creating a situation where he lays all the blame for instability at the doors of BJP’s allies in the NDA and the Opposition and himself opts for midterm polls to turn the tide in his favour again. The question is whether the I.N.D.I.A bloc has enough wherewithal to afford a midterm election. 

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Published 14 June 2024, 20:33 IST

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