In 2024, it’s MODI vs INDIA

I.N.D.I.A. (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance). Well that’s the acronym the Extended Opposition Alliance came up with, to forge against the Narendra Modi-led BJP Juggernaut in the 2024 elections. This 26-party alliance is an extension of what was previously the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), including the likes of AAP and TMC. Despite how hard BJP tries to brush it off, this alliance has definitely tinkered with them, as they rushed to bring their own house — National Democratic Alliance (NDA) — in order with as many as 38 ally partners and opening doors for more. However, there still lies miles-worth of a cliff that needs to be covered by the INDIA alliance to actually. So, here is my Blog, with an effective SWOT analysis of this grand 2024 battle…MODI vs INDIA.

P.S.: I will be using INDIA only, because it is very cumbersome to write I.N.D.I.A. every time. So, apologies in advance to those wary of it.

Strengths of the Alliance

Now, if we look at the 26 parties in the INDIA Alliance. These are namely; Congress, AAP, TMC, DMK, NCP, Shiv Sena (Uddhav), SP, JMM, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Apna Dal (Kamerawadi), National Conference (NC), PDP, CPI, CPI-M, CPI-ML, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), All India Forward Bloc, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi (KMDK), Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Kerala Congress (M), Kerala Congress (Joseph). 

Yes, I know, except for some 10, no party holds any special prominence outside their 4-5 constituencies. But, what really goes as their strength is the fact, that these 26 parties contain a much wider range and voter base, than the whole of NDA combined. It has the ruling TMC from Bengal, the ruling DMK from Tamil Nadu, and both JDU-RJD from the ruling Bihar ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (all three big electoral states). Plus, INDIA has a much wider cultural and ideological spectrum with Bengali, Marathi, Malyali, Tamilian and Kashmiri cultures all under one umbrella.

Now, the seat-sharing part is going to be difficult, but if the INDIA alliance can put up “only one candidate in one constituency” against the BJP, it will not be an easy affair for the latter. This won’t allow the anti-incumbency vote to split and may help in restricting BJP’s tally to close to 250 (as per some calculations). Interestingly, the alliance has not named a leader face or the umbrella party, but it should not be a surprise who is the biggest party in this bloc with the widest national organisation. If there were doubts about Congress leading the alliance, it was buried after its thumping landslide victory in Karnataka.

Some of the glaring omissions from the alliance were K Chandrashekhar Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). But, it’s not too hard to factor in the reasons. While BRS is up against Congress in Telangana for Assembly polls later this year, AIMIM is anyways referred to as “BJP’s B-Team”. So, an alliance with them wouldn’t have suited the agenda. However, there still is a chance of BRS joining either the INDIA alliance or NDA later, maybe after the state polls. Yes, the second option seems more probable to me.

Opposition names alliance 'I.N.D.I.A': Here is what it means - India Today

Major Opposition leaders in INDIA bloc (Photo: India Today)

Major Challenges

However, things are not going to be as simple as many are pointing out. Several roadblocks are going to come during the seat-sharing. Firstly, several parties in the alliance are actually rivals in specific states. For example, TMC and Congress in Bengal. Mamata Banerjee has often said that some Bengal-based Congress leaders “insult” her even more than BJP. While, it is a no-brainer who — among TMC and Congress — is a stronger force in Bengal, it will be really tough to persuade Congress to fight on little or no seat in the state (even though that would be most logical).

Seat-sharing issues will also come to the fore in Maharashtra with Shiva Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) and  NCP (Sharad Pawar faction), and with AAP in Punjab and Delhi (Kejriwal is also expected to demand seats in Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat). A similar situation will be arising in Uttar Pradesh, where Congress will try to find room for getting some seats to fight on, even though Samajwadi Party is the best option to garner anti-incumbency votes. However, there still lies a strong possibility of BJP sweeping UP once again, now with Yogi Adityanath’s rising popularity (though not for the good).

The other problem many political observers have pointed out is that the parties in the INDIA alliance might not be able to transfer the votes to each other, as the voters might not feel “committed” to the alliance that much. We have seen this example pretty much in Bengal, where the hard-core Communists wholeheartedly vote for the right-wing BJP.

Also, in India, we have the first-past-the-post system, so the whole calculation that NDA has 40% vote share and other parties have the rest 60%, might not be that easy. We don’t have a proportional representation like Israel where the parties get representation based on their vote percentage. So, unless the seat-sharing and alliance are in place properly, it might not dent the BJP Juggernaut. Something, the Opposition needs to be wary of.

Modi for next 60 years': BJP brings star attraction to Karnataka election | India | The Guardian

Narendra Modi has been one of the most charismatic leaders the country has ever seen (Photo: The Guardian)

The MODI Factor

Now, let’s discuss the phenomenon that has taken Indian politics by storm since 2014. Against the Opposition bloc, the BJP-led NDA alliance revolves around just one name: Narendra Modi. The prominence of this ‘TIMO’ Phenomenon (There is Modi only) — as BJP supporters rather call it — can be understood by the fact that in 2019, one-third of voters had stated that they voted for BJP “only because of Narendra Modi”, and their vote would have gone either way if someone else would have been on the ticket.

The major elements of this Modi factor are: Firstly, the people-to-people connection, as we all are quite aware of from his ‘Mitron‘ to ‘Parivarjano‘ now. The story of ‘A poor tea-seller rising up the ranks to lead the country’ very well resonates with the aspirations of today’s middle class, something the dynastic parties will NEVER will able to present. Secondly, he will definitely bring up that all these parties have come together just to defeat one person. “Ek akela kitno par bhaari pad raha hai” (one person alone is overpowering everyone else), as he once popularly remarked in Parliament.

Thirdly, Modi will effectively use his grand reception on foreign tours to project India’s rising global stature (which is actually the case but not solely due to him). Fourthly, he will also pitch in ‘India becoming the third-largest economy’ before 2030 (although it is a very ‘un-ambitious’ target, as India will anyways achieve the feat, even at a slow pace, due to the recession and stagnation of 3rd and 4th largest economies — Japan and Germany). And finally, as some experts believe, he will also bring up the ‘Bharat’ v ‘India’ comparison, showcasing that while India is a “colonial” term — also present in “Indian Mujahideen” and “East India Company” as Modi himself stated — Bharat is a purely cultural concept, which is being “carried forward by BJP” under the idea of becoming a “Vishwaguru”.

Finally, the one thing that has been a further smart step from Modi himself is the continuous exuberance of confidence. Especially, the way he has talked about returning for a third term. It constantly creates an impression that the Prime Minister is completely unaffected with all the political developments taking place in the Opposition camp, and he is the lone man fighting against “Corruption, Dynasty and Appeasement” with his ‘Quit India’ jibe.

Amit Shah's stress about backlash for BJP's Karnataka moves is showing

There are some challenges and the battle won’t be so smooth in 2024 (Photo: National Herald)

Challenges for BJP

Modi-led BJP which first came to majority in 2014 with 283 seats and improved its own tally to 303 in 2019 has emerged as a force to reckon with. While the victory in 2014 came riding on a heavy anti-incumbency wave of corruption-stricken 10-year UPA rule, the 2019 win – where it literally swept at least 7-8 big states – was based on its own ‘report card’, pro-Hindutva wave and further bolstered by the Pulwama episode (attack on CRPF convoy followed by IAF air strikes in Balakot).

However, in 2024, the game might not be as sweeping as it was in 2019. Firstly, this time it’s the BJP which is on the wrong side of the anti-incumbency factor, with multiple factors actually creating a headache for the saffron party. Secondly, there are states where the party is actually “struggling” to say the least. It lost power badly in Karnataka a few months back (still it will score decently in Lok Sabha if not sweep it like last time). Its party units in the three poll-bound states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan – are also not in a very healthy state, and are relying solely on Modi’s ‘charisma’. The poll results in these states later this year will be even more interesting (though the results in the same states in 2018 showed completely contrary six months later in 2019 LS polls).

Now, looking specifically, there are two states where BJP is expected to suffer the hardest dent. First, Maharashtra. Ever since the fallout with Uddhav’s Shiv Sena, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) has looked like a stronger force than BJP. Even one year after splitting Shiv Sena using Eknath Shinde, BJP doesn’t look confident of its prospects, as a result of which it has to further break NCP as well using Ajit Pawar. Although, this helped BJP in curbing Shinde’s ‘rising stature’ in the government. it also seemed a major disappointment for Devendra Fadnavis – a charismatic and strong leader – who was at the forefront of “exposing” Pawar’s corruption. So, it remains interesting to see if BJP’s splitting efforts are helpful in 2024 or if it’s MVA that has the last laugh.

The other state where BJP will struggle is Bihar. After Nitish Kumar (for the nth time) changed his ally and went back to its old partner and rival RJD, BJP has been worried regarding the caste combination being in the favour of ‘Mahagathbandan’. Yes, the general perception is that Nitish Kumar is a “spent force” now. But, surprisingly, BJP not having a popular CM face has allowed Tejashwi Yadav to come out the better choice in the state.   Little surprisingly, central agencies haven’t unleashed their attacks so harshly here as compared to Delhi, Bengal or Tamil Nadu. If the alliance does garner a huge chunk of OBC and minority votes, it can be a huge damage for BJP, who on the other hand, will be hoping to repeat its good show in the state in both 2014 and 2019.

Centre vs Opposition on Manipur as Parliament logjam continues - India Today

The Opposition has completely torn into the BJP on the Manipur issue (Photo: India Today)

The Story so far

The possibility of all the Opposition parties coming together as a bloc was very much in discussion for over a year. Such talks also came to the fore before the 2019 elections, but things didn’t materialise as such, and even what did wasn’t sufficient against the mammoth force. However, this time, the parties have been quite proactive in forging an alliance. And creative too. Genuinely, coming up with the acronym INDIA was a bullseye from the leaders straightaway creating a narrative that it is the “Idea of India” that they are protecting from a “fascist divisive” regime. Also, after Rahul Gandhi‘s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and his party’s landslide win over the only southern state under BJP, it became quite clear who will be leading this front against BJP. Also, another foot march (yatra) can be expected later this year from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh. So let’s see how things pan out.

The major issues on which the INDIA alliance will attack the government will be inflation, unemployment, religious disharmony, “misuse” of central agencies and “failure to resolve” the border standoff with China. The Manipur issue has further given much-needed fuel to the bloc. It was actually a smart idea from the alliance to send a delegation to visit relief camps in Manipur at a time when PM Modi was silent on the issue. It can also be said without doubt that the alliance has irked BJP, compelling it to announce its NDA expansion with as many as 38 parties, just a day after the INDIA bloc was announced. It has also questioned the confidence of the ‘Modi v All’ narrative of the BJP. In my opinion, the INDIA bloc has set every foot right till now, and from this situation, if someone can inflict maximum damage on them is they themselves.

Mixed bag

The recent political developments have made the 2024 battle very interesting (Photo: The Statesman)

The Battle 2024

Finally, the INDIA bloc has been a smart idea with all foot set right until now. But the seat negotiations and other adjustments on a Common Minimum Programme will be a complex thing to sort out for such a diverse set of ideologies. If there is no ‘Pulwama Episode’ till the election, the game can be very interesting. The upcoming state elections will also give some insightful pictures. Now, if you ask what I think about the results. Well, as per my calculations, even with all the losses I pointed out above, BJP will still be at around 250 seats. And, I can bet you that if BJP is at 250, then no one can stop it from forming the government.

Yes, the anti-incumbency ‘wave’ is there but not a ‘tornado’. Despite all the “Covid mismanagement”, the public perception in the majority is positive. The welfare schemes too resonate with the poor and have been BJP’s core campaign element. And, the beast ‘Hindutva’. This is a phenomenon that can make even a completely dissatisfied voter forget everything and vote for “his religion” if the “other” religion is being held under “control”. But, I but I also believe that this Hindutva force is neither a long-term thing nor a never-ending wave. Eventually, the bubble will burst. But, will it burst in 2024? I doubt. I think BJP has just enough in its tank to sail it through “at least” this poll (and this is a very ambiguous ‘at least’). So, yes Narendra Modi might just be delivering the next speech from the Red Fort. Also, you might see some more political analysis blogs from me as the general elections…so let’s gear up.




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