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Modi 3.0 Will Face an Aggressive Opposition for First Time in a Decade

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Modi 3.0 Will Face an Aggressive Opposition for First Time in a Decade

Even as the INDIA coalition waits for the ruling NDA to self-destruct, it will put the government under pressure in the Parliament.

Modi 3.0 Will Face an Aggressive Opposition for First Time in a Decade

Leaders of INDIA coalition parties (from left), DMK chief K. Stalin, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, and National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah at a meeting in New Delhi, India, after general election results were announced on June 4, 2024.

Credit: X/Mallikarjun Kharge

Even as Narendra Modi was sworn into office for a third time, the resurgent INDIA coalition of opposition parties has categorically stated that Prime Minister Modi had “lost the public mandate.”

In the recent general elections, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 240 seats, well short of the 272 seats required for a majority, and needed to cobble together that majority with the help of allies to form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

The Congress-led INDIA coalition came a close second with 234 seats.

On June 8, senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, who was re-elected chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party, said: “The PM sought the mandate solely in his name … he has suffered a political and moral defeat.” Gandhi went on to reiterate that Modi had lost the right to leadership.

Interestingly, even before the NDA coalition parties could meet, a jubilant INDIA alliance met on June 5, within 24 hours of the results. In a joint statement, the coalition stated that it “will take appropriate steps at the appropriate time to realize the people’s desire not to be ruled by the BJP’s government.”

This is the first time that Modi will be heading a coalition government. This government is being propped up mainly by two regional parties — the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) of Bihar and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) from Andhra Pradesh. Both are secular parties and their policies and ideologies are at variance with the Hindu supremacist BJP.

“The NDA government is being formed but no one can say how long it will last,” Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Sachin Pilot told The Diplomat.

Pointing out that “the NDA coalition is one of internal contradictions,” he said that the INDIA bloc would “wait and watch to see how the BJP’s alliance partners — the TDP and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — manage with the BJP.” (The NCP, a partner of the BJP in the NDA, is already upset with the “demotion” of its leader Praful Patel.)

Pilot was categorical in his description of the present Parliament as a “hung parliament” with no party enjoying a clear majority.

INDIA parties that made big gains in the election are the Congress with 99 seats — a victorious independent candidate from Maharashtra subsequently joined the Congress, upping its tally to 100 — followed by the Samajwadi Party from Uttar Pradesh (37), Trinamool Congress (TMC) from West Bengal (29), and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) from Tamil Nadu (22).

In a scathing attack on the new government, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she would not extend it her best wishes, as it was not formed democratically. She also announced that the TMC would not attend the swearing-in ceremony of Modi and his ministers on Sunday. Predicting that the new government would not last long, Banerjee said that although the INDIA bloc has not staked claim to form the government now, this does not mean it would not do so in future.

Questions are being raised about the INDIA coalition holding together after the elections.

Dismissing such speculation, DMK leader Tiruchi Siva told The Diplomat that the “alliance is here to stay. We are wholly united; rather, it is the NDA, which is a shaky coalition.”

The rationale behind the perception of the NDA as a shaky coalition is no secret. Both, the JD(U) and the TDP are seeking special status for Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, respectively, which would qualify them for priority funding and special economic packages from the central government.

JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has reportedly made this a condition for extending the new government the support of 12 JD(U) MPs. Likewise, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, who also won the simultaneously held Andhra state assembly elections and is about to be sworn in as chief minister of his state, expects Modi to deliver on his promise of special status for Andhra for the support of his party’s 16 MPs.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena Eknath Shinde faction claimed that several MPs from the rival Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray (UBT) faction want to defect to their side to boost the government numbers. Rubbishing such claims, Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena (UBT) faction told The Diplomat that for two days after the poll results, the Eknath Shinde faction “spread these rumors to weaken the INDIA alliance.”

According to Chaturvedi, the INDIA coalition is an alliance of strength and regional parties had stood together with the Congress and faced all adversities, from its leaders being jailed to being harassed by central investigation agencies, unitedly. There is “no chance of the bloc being broken up,” she said, asserting that the opposition will be “200 percent at its aggressive best” in Parliament.

Going forward, the INDIA parties are clear that they will hold the new government accountable for every action or inaction. However, the regional parties are worried that this would give the BJP time to resort to its old tricks of breaking up the regional parties to bolster their numbers.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Aditya Thackeray of Shiv Sena (UBT), who bore the brunt of the BJP’s machinations that culminated in splitting the erstwhile Shiv Sena, in 2022, wrote: “The bjp will break their word … This is our personal experience.” The BJP will “buy time to break your parties,” he warned.

It may be recalled that the Shiv Sena (UBT) was an erstwhile ally of the BJP in Maharashtra when it was an undivided Shiv Sena. The BJP split up the party, which resulted in two factions. This also resulted in Uddhav Thackeray being unseated as chief minister. The BJP managed to break up the NCP too, leaving even its founder, the veteran Sharad Pawar, stranded.

The 2024 elections, which saw the factions unaligned with the BJP perform well, are being seen as a befitting response of the public to punish the BJP and the factions it supported.

INDIA partners, especially the regional parties, have become wary of the shenanigans of the BJP. Addressing the INDIA bloc, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said, “The INDIA alliance welcomes all parties, which share its fundamental commitment to the values enshrined in the Preamble to our Constitution…” Thereby the opposition alliance has decided to keep its doors open, should a disgruntled JD(U) or the TDP join them in the future to form an INDIA government at the center.

It is no secret that the INDIA bloc is raring to overthrow the shaky NDA coalition at the first opportunity.

In the days following the announcement of the election results, there were unconfirmed reports of INDIA parties reaching out to Nitish Kumar. However, both sides have officially denied it.

Parliamentarian Manoj Jha of Bihar’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), an INDIA ally, told The Diplomat, “There is nothing permanent in politics. Time frame changes, things change.”

The opposition appears to be banking on the NDA coalition self-destructing. But neither the TDP nor the JD(U) have expressed any discomfort with the BJP so far. Jha said that the opposition is not expecting “signs of divorce [to appear] in the early honeymoon period.”

So for now, the opposition will adopt an aggressive approach to the Modi government in the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament, the first under the new NDA alliance. It will demand greater accountability and transparency from the government.

The CWC has mooted Rahul Gandhi, who won landslide victories from Wayanad and Rae Bareli constituencies, to be the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament. Rahul, meanwhile, has demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the alleged stock market scam linked to inflated exit poll numbers.

Calling on INDIA parties to be “watchful, vigilant and proactive,” Sonia Gandhi, Rahul’s mother, reminded them of “challenging times ahead.” She asserted that the Modi government will not be able to mistreat MPs, ignore parliamentary procedures, or muzzle and stifle Parliament as it has over the past decade any longer.