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'It's INDIA vs Modi', says Rahul as Opposition renames alliance

By Ananya Sengupta and Sanjeev Chopra
Last updated on: July 18, 2023 20:53 IST
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Setting the tone for their 2024 Lok Sabha campaign, 26 opposition parties on Tuesday formed a coalition --Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA)-- to unitedly take on the ruling National Democratic Alliance with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asserting that the fight will be 'between INDIA and Prime Minister Narendra Modi'.

IMAGE: Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leader Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury during addressing the media after the Opposition parties meet, in Bengaluru on Tuesday. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

Announcing the name of the opposition bloc at a press conference in Bengaluru after a nearly four-hour-long meeting of the 26 parties, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said, "We'll fight the 2024 Lok Sabha elections unitedly and we will come out with great success."

He said a committee of 11 members will be set up for coordination, and a convenor will be selected at the next meeting in Mumbai.


Kharge also said a secretariat will also be set up in Delhi for campaign management of the alliance and specific committees will be formed for separate issues. He said the dates for the Mumbai meeting will be announced soon.

While Kharge evaded a direct reply on who would be the face of the new alliance, earlier in his opening remarks at the meeting, he said the Congress is not interested in power or the post of prime minister.

"Our intention in this meeting is not to gain power for ourselves. It is to protect our Constitution, democracy, secularism and social justice," he said.

Addressing the joint press conference with other leaders, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said they have decided to prepare an action plan where they will talk about their ideology and programmes.

"The fight is against the ideology of the BJP and their thinking, they are attacking the country, unemployment is rampant, and the country's wealth is being taken away from millions and handed over to a few of the friends of the BJP and the prime minister," Gandhi said.

"We are defending the Constitution, the voice of Indians and the idea of India. You know what happens to anyone who wants to fight the idea of India... This is a fight between INDIA and the BJP, it is a fight between INDIA and Narendra Modi," the former Congress chief said.

Kharge said the second meeting of the opposition bloc after the Patna conclave was a very important one for saving democracy and the Constitution in the interest of the country's people.

"Our alliance will be called Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA)," Kharge said.

According to multiple sources, the name of the opposition front was suggested by TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and there was a lot of discussion on the full form of the term, INDIA.

Later, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said, "It was a collective effort. I don't think, we are taking any credit for this but yes, the idea came from Rahul Gandhi..."

Kharge also said that 'there are some differences between us but we have put that behind... We are together in the interest of the country...We'll fight the 2024 Lok Sabha elections unitedly and we will come out with great success'.

Kharge also launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Modi, saying he is now trying to bring together parties that had splintered and this shows that 'he is afraid of opposition parties'.

His remarks came just ahead of a meeting of 38 members of the NDA, including some new entrants.

Taking a swipe at Modi, former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said some people say 'we are fighting for family', they should know that 'the country is our family and we are fighting for our country'.

The Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray party chief also asserted that the opposition parties' fight is not against a person but against 'dictatorship'.

"People are feeling afraid as to what will happen, we want to say to them that there was a movie 'Main Hoon Na', so they should not worry, 'Hum hain na'," Thackeray said.

One person and one party is not the country, he said.

Kharge and Thackeray's remarks came after Modi, earlier in the day referred to the Bengaluru meeting as a 'conclave of the corrupt' and alleged that the opposition's mantra was 'of, by and for the family'.

In her remarks at the presser, Banerjee, while acknowledging all leaders present, referred to Rahul Gandhi as 'our favourite'.

Referring to the name of the alliance adopted, Banerjee said, "BJP, can you challenge INDIA? We love our motherland, we are the patriotic people of the country, we are for farmers, Dalits, we are for the country, for the world."

The only job the regime at the Centre does today is to buy and sell governments, she alleged.

"INDIA will win, our country will win and BJP will lose," Banerjee said.

She said the opposition bloc has imposed Section 420 on the ruling alliance with today's announcements. While Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code deals with cheating cases, Banerjee did not elaborate on her remarks.

Gandhi said the fight was not between the opposition parties and the BJP, but it was a 'fight for the idea of India that was being attacked'.

Asked about who would be the face of the alliance, Kharge did not give a direct answer and said the coordination committee and a convenor will be named in Mumbai.

Later, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted 'Article 1 of the Indian Constitution. India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.This is the spirit behind the INDIA announced by 26 political parties in Bengaluru today'.

In his remarks at the presser, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal said Prime Minister Modi got the opportunity to do a lot for the country in nine years, but no development has happened in any sector.

While most leaders, including Sharad Pawar, were present at the presser, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav had left before the press conference as they had to catch a flight.

The 26 opposition parties are -- the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Janata Dal-United, the RJD, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Nationalist Congress Party-Sharad Pawar, the Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, the Samajwadi Party, the National Conference, the People's Democratic Party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Communist Party of India, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, the Revolutionary Socliast Party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (Liberation), the Forward Bloc, the Indian Union Muslim League, the Kerala Congress-Joseph, the Kerala Congress-Mani, the Apna Dal-Kamerawadi, and the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK).

In their 'Samuhik Sankalp (joint resolution)' released after the meeting, the opposition parties demanded the implementation of the caste census while asserting that they have come together to defeat the 'hatred and violence being manufactured against minorities' as well as 'rising crimes against women, Dalits, tribals and Kashmiri Pandits'.

They also expressed 'grave concern' over the 'humanitarian tragedy' that has 'destroyed' Manipur.

'There is a deliberate attempt to weaken the federal structure of our polity. The role of governors and LGs (lieutenant governors) in non-BJP ruled states has exceeded all constitutional norms,' they said in the resolution.

They also alleged that the 'brazen misuse' of agencies by the Bharatiya Janata Party government against political rivals is undermining democracy.

The 26 parties have a combined strength of about 150 seats in Lok Sabha, as against over 330 of the NDA, and are in power individually or in alliance in Delhi and 10 states.

Top opposition leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav along with presidents and leaders of several parties attended the meeting.

The leaders also held informal deliberations at a dinner meeting on Monday.

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Ananya Sengupta and Sanjeev Chopra
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India Votes 2024

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