Opposition meeting: 26 Indian parties form alliance to take on PM Modi

Opposition meet
Image caption,Congress leader Sonia Gandhi (left) was among the participants

By Cherylann Mollan & Sharanya Hrishikesh

BBC News

The leaders of 26 Indian opposition parties have formed an alliance to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in the general election due next year.

The opposition’s coalition will be called INDIA, an acronym for Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance.

The group will hold its next meeting – the third one – in Mumbai city.

Top opposition leaders including the Congress’s Sonia Gandhi participated in the meeting on Tuesday.

The leaders discussed issues such as seat-sharing – how many seats each party would contest – and a common programme for the election in the two-day meeting which was held in Bengaluru city (formerly Bangalore) in the southern state of Karnataka.

“We are setting aside our political differences to save democracy,” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said in a press conference after the meeting.

But taking on Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which won more than 300 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s parliament) in 2019 – will be a formidable challenge even for a mostly united opposition.

Even though it has a mixed record in recent state elections, the BJP still governs around 15 states (India has 28 states and eight federally administrated territories) either by itself or as part of a coalition. It is India’s richest political party with a declared income of 19.17bn rupees ($233.67m; £178.4m) in 2021-22. And its biggest strength in a national election is the popularity of Mr Modi, who has been able to sway even voters who may have chosen a different party in state polls.

Meanwhile, opposition parties are grappling with their own challenges.

Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as an MP in March after he was convicted and sentenced to jail in a defamation case related to comments made about Mr Modi’s surname at an election rally in 2019. Unless his legal appeal is successful, he cannot contest next year’s election.

Many of the opposition parties are also at loggerheads with each other in states such as West Bengal and Delhi due to differing political ideologies.

Some, like the Nationalist Congress Party, are battling internal defections, while others are trying to deal with a lack of unity among senior state leaders.

However, observers say that a strong anti-BJP sentiment is uniting the opposition, pushing them to look past their differences.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said at the press conference that the meeting was “constructive” and “fruitful”.

“BJP, can you challenge INDIA?” she asked.

Some reports have said that Sonia Gandhi will be named the president of the opposition’s alliance but there was no official confirmation.

Meanwhile, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was also set to hold a meeting of 38 allies on Tuesday in the capital Delhi.

On Monday, BJP president http://tampansamping.com/ JP Nadda had criticised the opposition meeting, saying its foundation was based on “the politics of selfishness”.

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