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Battlelines set for 2024: It’s ‘Ghamandia’ vs ‘Mohabbat Ki Dukaan’ – by Deepika Bhan

New Delhi, Aug 20, 2023- The great Indian game of elections has begun much ahead of the final showdown for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP, the INDIA alliance and the rest of the Opposition are strategising comprehensively to race ahead as the clock ticks away to D-Day.

The fight is tough and the competition seems to be heading for a cut-throat last mile, or at least that is what the publicity war seems to be implying thus far.

The BJP believes that the Modi wave continues to be strong and the party will sail again to the finishing line. The Opposition, on the other hand, is trying its best to present a united front.

Like defenders in a kabaddi match not missing any opportunity to grab the raider, whether by way of an ankle hold or thigh or waist hold, the INDIA alliance is doing its best to stop the opponent from crossing the line.

The strategy of the Congress-led Opposition block is to nibble away the big states slowly. Karnataka was taken and now the aim is for Madhya Pradesh. With Himachal Pradesh in the kitty, the party is on a spree of doling out freebies in poll-bound Rajasthan to hook the voter.

The strategy for the INDIA alliance is getting clearer by the day. It is to deride Prime Minister Modi in every way nationally or internationally, frame the BJP and RSS’s pet Hindutva cause as fear and hate mongering, and counter it with Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Mohabbat Ki Dukaan’. And at the same time pursue the soft Hindutva agenda as and when required.

Much like in Kabbadi, the skills and tricks for offence as well as defence will define the outcome. And, this time the Congress is very much into the right tricks, and is trying to balance the ‘Mohabbat Ki Dukaan’ slogan with the Hindu symbolism.

In Madhya Pradesh, the party is trying to woo the majority Hindu community ahead of the Assembly polls likely to be held later this year. While Hindus constitute about 91 per cent of Madhya Pradesh population and Muslims only seven per cent as per the 2021 Census report, the fight is clear. Kamal Nath, the Congress chief in Madhya Pradesh and the probable CM face of his party has been very openly pushing a soft Hindutva image of himself and the Congress in the state.

Similarly in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress has brought in Ajay Rai to lead it. Wearing the sandalwood paste and Kumkum on the forehead, Rai’s first pictures were enough to indicate the Congress’ dubki move, one of the offensive skills in Kabaddi. Rai started his career with RSS’ student wing before going on to contest two Lok Sabha elections against Narendra Modi in Varanasi.

But, while the Congress is working on state-specific agendas, it has not been able to strike a balance in crucial states such as West Bengal, Maharashtra, and the two Telugu states as well as Kerala. The party leaderhip’s challenge and final test is to manage these states better.

A major chunk of the Opposition has been able to form a big team of 26, which has given itself a new name INDIA, but the challenge comes now. It is in their ability to stick together, agree on points of disagreements, make sacrifices, accommodate one another, and above all, to work unitedly against ‘TINA factor’.

Since 2014, when the Modi-led BJP took over the reins of the country, the ‘There Is No Alernative’, or ‘TINA’. factor has often much mentioned. Surveys and the polls by various organisations over the past decade have shown that Narendra Modi is way ahead of other contenders, notably Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee. The numbers are heavily tilted towards Modi.

For some, it may be the TINA factor that is giving Modi the edge. But looking at his past performances, he comes out as one among the very few all-out winning and shining stars. Modi has not only won the last two Lok Sabha elections, but before becoming the Prime Minister, he won the Gujarat Assembly elections thrice consecutively. In fact, he has won every election he has contested since 2001.

Will he be able to pull his third term at the Centre is the question that may be worrying the Opposition too.

The Prime Minister himself sounded the poll bugle when he drew the battlelines for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls first in the Lower House during his reply to the no-confidence motion and then during his Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

“The next five years are for unprecedented development. The biggest golden moment to realise the dream of 2047 is the next five years. The next time, on August 15, I will present before you the achievements and developments of the country from this Red Fort,” PM Modi said.

This was a direct challenge to the Opposition alliance, which has been hoping and praying to stop Modi’s march in 2024.

Mamata Banerjee said there will be ‘Khela Hobe’ and this year’s Modi’s Independence Day will be his last speech as Prime Minister from the Red Fort. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad also said, “This is his last time … We will come to power.”

The Opposition’s wish list seems to have only one name on it and that is Narendra Modi. Even as they set their sights on one target, PM Modi is on a demolition drive.

Hitting out at the INDIA alliance, he said, “The Opposition needed ‘NDA’ to stay alive, they just added two ‘I’s’ to it due to their arrogance.”

Speaking in reply to the no-confidence motion, he said: “This is not INDIA but ‘Ghamandia’ alliance; everyone there wants to be the ‘groom’, and become the PM. Whenever circumstances will change, knives will be out in the alliance.”

Whether it is the ‘Ghamandia’ alliance narrative or the demolish Modi agenda of the INDIA block, the country is in for a never-seen potboiler this time. The game is tense and nail-biting indeed. (Agency)

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