The INDIA bloc was successful in sending out the message that 28 opposition parties are finally on to some plan. But the challenges are huge — both internal and external. Photo-ops do show smiling leaders, but underneath, there’s a lot of turmoil. The 28 parties that constitute the INDIA bloc believe that they represent 60 per cent of the population, hence victory is certain. But the question is: Is it so simple? By coming together, will the like-minded bloc be able to dislodge the BJP in 2024? The answer is not equally easy.
The INDIA bloc has cleverly named itself so, and it believes that this may prove to be a game changer for the country’s political landscape. Naming the grouping of 28 parties INDIA seeks to send the message that they are the true representatives of India. The opposition believes that the INDIA bloc can do what UPA couldn’t do in 2014 and thereafter. But will the new avatar produce magic for the opposition bloc? The challenges are galore, especially when the opponent is Narendra Modi. The seat-sharing struggle in the INDIA bloc will test the building bond.
The challenge is also to overcome the perception that the bloc has brought together leaders and parties who have been fighting corruption cases. In fact, the change of the name from UPA to INDIA is seen as a move to shrug off the taint of corruption. In its ten years (UPA-I and UPA-II) in office, the UPA government was reeling under corruption allegations, scams, policy paralysis and nepotism. Then, leaders such as Lalu Yadav have already been convicted. To counter past corruption charges, the bloc leaders have been targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Adani issue.
The bloc also believes that the electoral math this time is favourable to it. In the second term of the Modi-led NDA, a lot of changes in alliances have taken place. Parties have shifted from one grouping to another, thereby affecting the power dynamics. The BJP-led NDA had 352 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, which has come down to 335 in 2023. The UPA had 91 seats in 2019 and after the formation of the INDIA bloc, the number has swelled to 144. The seats of the NDA may have come down, but the number of parties, which was 19 in 2019, is 38 at present. The UPA in 2019 had 19 parties and the INDIA bloc now has 28.
Electoral statistics may give the INDIA bloc a boost in its efforts to take on the Modi-led NDA, but it won’t be easy on the ground. Modi, despite the slowing economy, growing unemployment and rising inflation, continues to hold sway and about 80 per cent of Indians have a favourable view of Modi and around seven in 10 Indians believe their country has recently become more influential. Another issue is that the 28 INDIA parties do not have a single leader who can match and override the Modi juggernaut. The INDIA bloc knows this.