Indian opposition parties form alliance against BJP

NEW DELHI, (Reuters): More than two dozen Indian opposition parties said that they had formed an alliance called “INDIA” to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in parliamentary elections next year.

The alliance said in a statement that the BJP was assaulting the character of the republic and they pledged to “safeguard the idea of India as enshrined in the Constitution”.

In the first indication of a common political and economic policy, the alliance said it would focus on fighting rising prices and unemployment.

Naming the alliance INDIA is seen as an attempt to challenge the BJP’s nationalist platform in elections due by May 2024.

Modi and BJP criticised the alliance members as opportunists and the corrupt who defamed India globally but were now trying to save their existence and their families.

Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the main opposition Congress party, said INDIA stood for “Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance”.

“The main aim is to stand together to safeguard democracy and the constitution,” Kharge told reporters at the end of a two-day meeting of 26 opposition parties in Bengaluru.

The meeting was their second in a month to build a platform ahead of elections, which BJP remains the favourite to win.

The parties, many of which are regional rivals and have been splintered at the national level, account for less than half the 301 seats BJP has in the 542-member lower house of parliament.

They have, however, sought to sink their differences to challenge the BJP after Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi was convicted in a defamation case and disqualified from parliament in March.

Gandhi told reporters in Bengaluru the fight against BJP is a fight to “defend the idea of India, defend the voice of the Indian people”. INDIA’s statement mentioned building a strong economy and fighting what they called BJP’s persecution of Indians.

Kharge said the next meeting of the alliance would form a coordination panel, name a convenor and take up the complex issue of farming out seats for parties in the alliance to contest one-on-one against BJP.

Speaking later on Tuesday, Modi said political alliances “built on negativity” never succeeded and recalled the achievements of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) BJP launched in 1998.

BJP organised an NDA meeting in the capital on Tuesday, the first in years, to mark its 25th anniversary and gathered 38 parties, many of them small groups with limited regional pockets of influence.

NDA has diminished as an alliance since Modi came to power in 2014 and was re-elected in 2019 as he led BJP to strong victories, reducing the influence of alliance partners.

But BJP is reviving NDA now as it does not want to leave anything to chance to win a third term, say political analysts in local media.

“We unite the people of India, they divide the people of India, they underestimate the ordinary people of India,” Modi told the NDA meeting, referring to opposition parties.

“People are watching why they are coming together, what is the glue that is bringing them together,” Modi said. “People have made up their mind to give the mandate to NDA a third time.”

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