Indian opposition parties join forces to take on Modi

India alliance composed of 26 parties accuses ruling 38-member coalition of ‘orchestrating a systemic assault on the country’s character’

India’s main opposition parties and prime minister Narendra Modi’s rival Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are vying to secure political alliances ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.

While leaders of 26 opposition parties announced the formation of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (India) on Tuesday to challenge the BJP, the latter said its 38-party National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would prevail for the third successive time.

“We are setting aside our political differences to safeguard democracy and the Constitution [from the BJP]” said Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the Indian National Congress, the largest opposition party, which is spearheading the India alliance.

After their meeting in Bengaluru – their second in a month – India members said they were collaborating to defeat the BJP, which they accused of “orchestrating a systemic assault on the country’s character”.


In their statement, India parties underscored their commitment to “preserving India’s core values” by promoting inclusive development and upholding secular values which they said had been degraded by the BJP.

They also pledged to tackle the rising cost of living and growing unemployment under BJP rule since it first assumed office in 2014. It retained power five years later with an even bigger parliamentary majority.

Mr Kharge said an 11-member co-ordination committee would be instituted at the next India meeting, which is scheduled to take place soon in Mumbai. This will chart the opposition’s strategy for the elections, which are due to take place in May 2024. Supporters of the India alliance, he added, would travel the country to campaign.

At their NDA meeting in New Delhi, which also took place on Tuesday, Mr Modi and other senior BJP leaders criticised India alliance participants as “corrupt, regressive and opportunists” who they said were collaborating to perpetuate “dynastic rule and selfish politics”.

The criticisms were aimed at Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather were Congress party prime ministers for nearly 40 years following the country’s independence 76 years ago from colonial rule.

“We unite the people of India, but [opposition members] divide them,” Mr Modi said at the NDA meeting, while BJP president J P Nadda dismissed the India formation as a “ragtag team”.

Political analysts, meanwhile, said the India grouping faced an “uphill task” to defeat the BJP, as between them they accounted for 142 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament.

Many are also regional rivals, and their differing ideologies and political priorities have resulted in successive state and federal elections over the past decade, invariably to the BJP’s advantage.

There was also widespread scepticism in political and media circles over whether the India affiliates could bury their multiple differences and present a united front against the BJP in the elections.

The NDA, on the other hand, has 332 MPs, of whom 301 are BJP lawmakers. The Hindu nationalist party also heads governments in 15 of India’s 28 states, either by itself or in coalition with other parties. It is also the country’s richest party, with a declared income of about €210 million.

Its principal asset is the popularity of Mr Modi, predicated on his ability to sway a vast number of undecided voters with his impassioned oratory, extravagant promises and abrasive denigration of opposition leaders.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi