There has been much hype about the new Opposition alliance named INDIA (Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance) which has recently been formed with 26 parties with focus on nationalism to contest the BJP’s perceived monopoly over nationalism. This also incorporates the central message of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which was driven by the quest for protecting the idea of India and forging solidarities across caste, community and cultural barriers to march towards inclusive development.
Apart from the name, Jeetega Bharat (India will win) has been finalised as the tagline of the coalition that aims to take on the BJP in the 2024 General election. “The fight is between NDA and INDIA, Narendra Modi and INDIA, his ideology and INDIA. India always wins all fights”, aptly pointed out Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
Whether the Samuhik Sankalp (collective resolve) would be able to unite the Opposition in letter and spirit remains a big question. The electoral success of BJP in the post-2014 period played a significant role in providing Hindutva flavour to nationalism. In fact, it is reasonable to describe Hindutva-driven nationalism as the principal narrative of contemporary Indian politics. No political party is in a position to ignore Hindu issues, Hindu sentiments and Hindu interests. BJP played the Hindu card extremely well and emerged as the hegemonic political entity though there.
The nationalism factor would become very crucial in the coming months. It is an irony of Indian politics that the BJP, an RSS product, that usurped the nationalism plank from the Congress, which inherited the legacy of the freedom movement. As is well known, the RSS had no role to play in the freedom movement, but the BJP succeeded in attaching the ‘nation first’ tag to its politics despite its ‘Hindu nationalism’ not being in conformity with the constitutional principles. This propagation of nationalism was to attract the majority Hindus and bring them to the party’s fold while pushing the secular parties out of the nationalism framework.
By branding as ‘minority appeasement’ and establishing majoritarianism as patriotic, the BJP managed to recast the political discourse to its advantage. Moreover, judged from the economic perspective, the so-called Hindutva nationalism did not truly help the poor and the impoverished sections of Hindus, who continued to languish due to lack of basic services, specially education and health facilities in rural and semi-urban areas and backward districts and sub-divisions of the country.
Modi’s brand of nationalism apparently had two aspects, one an ethno-majoritarian model of building a Hindu rashtra and the other framing such policies that helped the rich and a major section of the middle class as welfare expenditure was steadily curbed. And this notion has now been challenged by the new alliance. One may mention here that he considered ‘freebies’, which help the lowest segments of society, get the bare essentials a serious threat to India’s economy. While the Congress confronted Modi’s claims on freebies by recalling how his government wrote-off debt worth over Rs 10 lakh crore, what could deeply impact the BJP’s electoral prospects is the successful implementation of welfare schemes in States ruled by the rival party. For example, the relief given on LPG cylinders in Congress-ruled States to beat the biting ‘Modi rate’ of Rs 1160 per cylinder is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to Congress General Secretary Randeep Surjewala, “a government that cannot spend 12 percent to 15 percent of the total budget on public welfare has no moral right to stay in office. The total outgo on the Karnataka guarantees that the Congress promised will be around Rs 45,000 crore while the State’s budget is Rs 3.20 lakh crore” He suggested that the monthly payment of Rs 2000 was a Congress attack on ‘Modi-made mahangai’.
Though a section of analysts has blamed the government’s pro-rich attitude, there has not been proper propagation of this fact at the grass-root levels where people are enamoured by Modi’s charisma, speeches, specially because of protecting Hindu nationalism and curbing corruption. The new alliance has to focus on economic issues, jobless growth, hike in food prices and highlighting corrupt and uneducated BJP leaders who know nothing except religious fundamentalism, which was not accepted by a major section of our political leaders as also religious luminaries, Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
It remains to be seen how the Opposition alliance will propagate their brand of nationalism – both social and economic — and attract the masses as also the minority communities. There are many questions that remain unresolved. Firstly, the leadership issue is crucial and it would wise for the Congress to lead the alliance. Secondly, the bitter in-fighting in some States like in West Bengal between Congress and CPM, on one side and the TMC, on the other and in Kerala between Congress and the CPM have to be tactfully resolved.
Apart from these, the corruption charges brought by Modi against these leaders need to be effectively countered. One may mention here that in a recent meeting, the Prime Minister pointed out: “No matter what they and what banner they may display, they can offer only one product that is guarantee of corruption”. He further stated that unlike UPA, NDA is not a “coalition of compulsions” but a “coalition of regional aspirations”. Those within and close to the BJP, who have amassed huge money – like the Adanis – have to be highlighted among the masses and the wrong priorities of the government in helping the business class.
Finally, the new alliance must take the responsibility of challenging Modi’s misguided concept of nation-building prevailing on ethno-majoritarian conception by polarising the cleavages of castes, tribes and minorities and reaching out to the grass-root level by different regional parties. Success can definitely come if the right message is conveyed with the distressing economic scenario. The educated and the socially aware individuals would understand Modi’s ulterior designs that these lead to socio-economic conflicts and are just a manifestation of the wrong policies being followed.
Added to this, the unity factor of the major allies is the key point at this juncture. People, who want the BJP to go, have innumerable questions whether the new coalition would be able to work unitedly and carry on the development priorities in a judicious and inclusive manner. Thus, till the Lok Sabha elections there has to be a united approach in all matters, whether on social, economic, environmental and, of course, political issues. Analysts would eagerly watch the next conclave at Mumbai where a common programme is expected to be announced which obviously the parties would highlight in the coming months.—INFA