In what is poised to be a game-changing development ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, a 26-party alliance has coalesced to challenge the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Christened the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.), this newly formed coalition was the most significant decision taken by the multi-party meeting held at the upscale Taj West End hotel in Bengaluru on July 18.
Behind closed doors, the leaders from diverse political parties representing various regions of the country had assembled for a dinner hosted by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. At 4 pm sharp, the alliance’s press conference commenced, with All India Congress Committee president, Mallikarjun Kharge, taking the lead. He revealed that all 26 parties had unanimously agreed to establish an “11-member coordination committee” during their next meeting in Mumbai. This committee will tackle critical matters such as leadership questions and the intricacies of seat sharing among competing constituents across different States. Furthermore, Kharge disclosed plans to set up a campaign management secretariat in Delhi.
The joint resolution issued by the members of I.N.D.I.A. unequivocally vowed to “safeguard the idea of India as enshrined in the Constitution” while accusing the BJP of orchestrating a systematic assault on the nation’s character. This pointed statement underscored the alliance’s commitment to preserving the core values of the country.
During the press conference, Kharge also emphasised the impressive scale of the Bengaluru meeting, with 26 parties in attendance, compared to the 16 that convened in Patna on June 24 for the first gathering of opposition parties. However, his remarks did not end there; he made sharp remarks about the media, criticising their alleged favouritism towards Modi. Kharge claimed that the media appeared to be “captured by Modi”, and bemoaned the perceived hostile portrayal of the opposition. He asserted that such a situation was unprecedented in his 52 years of political experience. Kharge further contended that Modi’s reconstitution of the NDA, in the face of the impending alliance, exposed the Prime Minister’s apprehensions about the opposition’s growing strength.
Echoing Kharge, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched a scathing attack on Modi and the BJP, accusing them of “selling the country”. She defiantly questioned whether the BJP could stand up against the might of I.N.D.I.A.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who joined the meeting in Bengaluru after the Congress declared its opposition to the Centre’s ordinance on controlling services in Delhi, clarified the raison d’être of the alliance: to “save India”. Kejriwal pointedly criticised the Modi-led Union government, highlighting its alleged failure in all sectors and contending that the country had not experienced substantial development during Modi’s nine-year tenure.
Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, expressed solidarity among parties with “different ideologies”, emphasising their united aim to “save our country, which is our family”.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi framed the opposition’s battle against the BJP as a “fight between two ideas of India”. He stressed the alliance’s commitment to defend the Constitution, the voice of the people, and the idea of India itself. In a rhetorical flourish, Gandhi asked, “You know what happens to anyone who opposes the idea of India?”
The dais hosted other prominent leaders, including Siddaramaiah and Hemant Soren, the Chief Ministers of Karnataka and Jharkhand, respectively. Among them were NCP leader Sharad Pawar, as well as Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja of the Left parties. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav had participated in the discussions but left before the press conference began.
Notably, Bengaluru-based journalists recalled the city’s historical significance in shaping political narratives with national repercussions. Past events, such as the 1969 split in the Congress and the 1971 gathering of opposition leaders opposing Indira Gandhi, were discussed. Additionally, Bengaluru played a pivotal role during the Emergency years of 1975-77, with prominent opposition leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, being incarcerated and later playing essential roles in the Janata Party-led government.
With the I.N.D.I.A. alliance poised to challenge the NDA in the upcoming Lok Sabha election, the stage is set for an epic political showdown in 2024.