July 21, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether I.N.D.I.A can defeat BJP in the 2024 elections. We also look at the punishment for paper leaks in Rajasthan, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Can I.N.D.I.A defeat BJP in the 2024 elections?
There’s a lot to be said for branding. It’s a massive industrial complex. It helps companies sell their products and services to millions. If they’re lucky, consumers become brand conscious and loyal. They believe in what the company is selling, not just the product/service but perhaps even the philosophy or story that goes with it.
There’s also something to be said for branding in politics. Parties and politicians sell their vision to people in hopes the masses buy in. As several opposition parties look to form a united front, they’ve come up with the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) as a counter to the BJP. Will this be enough to take on Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party machinery?
2024 is a big year for Indian politics. The world will watch the largest democratic exercise to see if Modi will continue his dominance or if a united opposition will topple him and the BJP. Some might say united opposition should be taken with a grain of salt since they’ve struggled, to put it simply, to unite. How exactly things will turn out next year is anybody’s guess.
But what does history tell us about large coalitions? They’re a piece of complicated machinery in themselves. In the post-independence era, for about two decades, Congress was the dominant force in Indian politics. They won a majority in Parliament and in most states. Even in 1969, when there was a split in the party, Indira Gandhi managed to keep the party together and survive without the support of others.
In 1971, thanks to a decisive mandate, the Indira Gandhi government was formed and lasted till 1977. This was after the emergency was lifted in 1975 and elections were announced. However, 1977 would not be a good year for the party. They lost. Thus began the era of coalition politics.
The first coalition experiment at the national level was in the mid-1970s. Several parties came together to unite against Gandhi with a new Janta party. Anyone against the emergency, even those within the Congress, were welcomed in. While they won in 1977, infighting led to its collapse. Atal Bihari Vajpayee later said the public airing of grievances sullied the coalition’s image.
We then move to the late 1980s with the National Front. Among the parties included were the Janata Dal, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). While Congress won in 1984, in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, they weren’t successful in 1989. They got 197 seats. The National Front got 147. With the support of BJP and Left parties, the Front formed the government with VP Singh as Prime Minister. This didn’t last. The BJP withdrew due to LK Advani’s arrest while leading the rath yatra.
The 1990s saw a few coalitions. The Samajwadi Janata Party with Chandra Shekhar as Prime Minister with the Congress’ support lasted seven months. Then came the United Front with two Prime Ministers in two years – HD Deva Gowda and IK Gujaral.
1998 was an important year. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had its origin story here. This pre-poll alliance had the BJP, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Shiv Sena, and others. Over time, the membership of this alliance has changed. Despite that, it has four Lok Sabha victories – 1998, 1999, 2014, and 2019.
The NDA’s chief rival was, and is, to some extent, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) with Congress, DMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and others. They’ve got two victories under their belt – 2004 and 2009.
Cut to the present, parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have come to the fore who are more than eager to take the fight to the BJP who’ve dominated the past two Lok Sabha elections. Bengaluru was the venue where leaders from 26 opposition parties met. The outcome was INDIA. The newly-formed alliance is seemingly a revamped version of the Congress-led UPA.
While this is seen as a sign of progress for the opposition, can this acronym, and everything it symbolises and encompasses, be enough to stop the BJP?
VIEW: Ready for the fight
The idea of having INDIA as the headline is good, but the opposition realised that having the tagline “Jeetega Bharat (victory for India)” meant the BJP can’t claim the idea or concept of Bharat. If we’re just going by the name, then it’s good they realised that Bharat and India should be treated as one and the same. Despite understandable scepticism, the opposition seems to have started the engine.
The run-up to 2024 is likely to be a war of words and branding. The branding comes first here, and that’s what the opposition alliance has done. There’s also the numbers – 24 parties came together and agreed on INDIA and its slogan. The number of opposition parties in the first opposition meeting in Patna was 17. This wasn’t a long drawn-out process as some might have anticipated. It was done relatively quickly. Time is of the essence.
There’s a sign that the BJP is, at most, a little nervous about how quickly things came together at the Bengaluru meeting. So much so that they had their own in Delhi on July 18. As far as the opposition and history are concerned, 2023 seems different from 2019. The AAP is on board. Also, the focus seems to be on uniting under a common minimum agenda – safeguarding democracy and secularism.
COUNTERVIEW: It’s just a name
Coming up with a name, a tagline, and a brand identity is relatively easy. The proof will be in the proverbial electoral pudding. The BJP might give props to the opposition for coming together this quickly, but there’s still a long way to go. Some of these parties are at odds with each other in several states. No clever name or tagline can change that. Even if they can unite at the central level under one banner, what’s the probability they stay together in the long run?
Decades after Indira Gandhi’s dominance, the current Congress isn’t equipped to take the lead, let alone dominate. There are still internal tussles to sort out. See Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Even the origins of the INDIA branding seem to have differing narratives, with some supposedly against it but overruled. While the Bengaluru meeting had 26 parties present, the NDAs had 38.
Part of putting on a united front involves some real politicking. For example, what about seat sharing? Questions on that went unanswered in the post-meeting media interaction. History isn’t on the side of the UPA. We only need to go back to 2018 when opposition parties met in Bengaluru at the oath ceremony of the Congress-JD(S) government. That didn’t turn out great. While INDIA and its tagline sound simple and aspirational, it won’t be able to win with just anti-Modi sloganeering.
- How Will ‘INDIA’, the New Opposition Alliance, Fare? The History of Coalition Politics Offers Clues – News18
- How Have Attempts At Opposition Unity Played Out So Far, Could 2024 Be Different Than 2019? – Outlook
- What is INDIA, the new group formed by opposition parties – Times of India
- Dear BJP, Your Nervousness Is Showing – NDTV
- As ‘INDIA’ Opposition Alliance Meets in Bengaluru, Here Are the 9 Big Factors at Play – The Wire
- I.N.D.I.A is clever. Can it convince India? – Deccan Herald
- Opposition unity will forever remain a work in progress unless INDIA presents a credible alternative vision – Financial Express
- INDIA, The Death Of UPA, And A 2018 Reminder – NDTV
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) I.N.D.I.A can defeat the BJP in the 2024 elections.
b) I.N.D.I.A can’t defeat the BJP in the 2024 elections.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Government has had 9 years, why hasn’t it built a better statistical system
For the Left:
Government’s Data Protection Bill is worried about privacy too
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Yamuna floodplain projects setback (Delhi) – In the recent flood, nearly 90% of the 90,000 saplings and 29 lakh riverine grasses planted in the last few years on the Yamuna floodplain have suffered damage. The Delhi Development Authority’s ten restoration projects, covering thousands of hectares, were all affected, and recovery could take years. However, a full assessment is challenging due to the remaining inundation and sludge, with some areas still holding at least 2 meters of water.
Why it matters: The projects aimed at safeguarding the Yamuna floodplain from erosion, encroachment, and other factors. The floodwater’s stagnation likely contaminated the soil, impacting the survival of young grasses and saplings. The restoration work, including desilting water bodies, will begin soon, but sourcing and planting the required plants may take time, as mentioned by an official.
Jagananna Thodu scheme (Andhra Pradesh) – CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy released ₹560.73 crore as the first tranche under the Jagananna Thodu scheme. This initiative benefits 5,10,412 small and marginal street vendors and artisans by providing interest-free bank loans. The released amount includes ₹549.70 crore for the loans and ₹11.03 crore for interest subvention, directly credited to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. CM Reddy highlighted that Andhra Pradesh is the sole state implementing this scheme to support numerous petty traders and artisans.
Why it matters: The number of loan beneficiaries in Andhra Pradesh surpasses that of the entire country. The Jagananna Thodu scheme aids petty traders and traditional artisans who previously relied on money lenders for working capital. So far, the scheme has assisted 15,87,492 individuals, including 13,29,011 repeat loan beneficiaries. The government has invested ₹2,955.79 crore, with ₹74.69 crore allocated for interest payments.
Rural housing scheme (Chhattisgarh) – Ahead of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections, CM Bhupesh Baghel unveiled the Gramin Awas Nyay Yojana, a rural housing project aimed at countering government criticism. State-funded, the scheme intends to simplify the grant process for eligible beneficiaries, addressing the challenges faced under the Prime Minister’s Rural Housing program. CM Baghel stated that they would rely on a survey conducted by the Panchayat and Rural Development Department to determine eligibility for housing approval.
Why it matters: The failure of the State to provide matching grants for constructing houses under the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana (PMAY) was highlighted by Deputy CM TS Singh Deo a year ago. He claimed that nearly 8,00,000 beneficiaries received no houses during the Congress’ tenure. A BJP spokesperson accused the government of creating confusion with new surveys and lists just before the elections.
Extending jail time for paper leaks (Rajasthan) – The proposed Amendment Bill aims to raise the maximum sentence for paper leaks to life imprisonment from 10 years and increase the minimum imprisonment from 5 to 10 years. The Leader of Opposition, Rajendra Rathore, demanded a CBI investigation into all competitive exams conducted by the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC). The BJP members staged a walkout.
Why it matters: The Act was enacted last year following a police probe revealing leaked question papers for the Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (REET). Rathore questioned the significance of harsher punishments when allegations of involvement from “politically influential people” were surfacing, including a member of the RPSC being previously arrested.
Sexual violence against women (Manipur) – Following the emergence of a video showing two women from the Kuki-Zomi community being paraded naked and sexually assaulted in Manipur, one of the victims reported that they were “abandoned to the mob by the police.” The victims had earlier filed a police complaint on May 18, alleging that the younger woman had endured a brutal gang rape during daylight. The younger woman claimed that the police handed them over to the assailants.
Why it matters: The government confirmed the arrest of one person on Thursday morning and stated that the operation to apprehend more perpetrators is ongoing. PM Narendra Modi, breaking his silence, expressed shame on behalf of 140 crore Indians, vowing that the law will not let those involved escape justice. A Supreme Court bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud deemed the incident “simply unacceptable” and directed the Centre and state government to take immediate action, updating the apex court on their actions.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
6 – The number of medals bagged by India at the International Math Olympiad, including 2 Gold, 2 Silver and 2 Bronze medals.