Something to cheer for I.N.D.I.A. bloc

The newly-formed 28-party Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I..A.) bloc has reason to cheer for winning four out of seven seats across six states in byelections that were held last week. But, at the same time, the bad news, however, is for the I.N.D.I.A. bloc’s Left allies –  Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and CPI – for reversals in their erstwhile strongholds like Tripura. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tripura retained its Dhanpur seat and snatched the Boxanagar seat from the CPI-M with a huge margin, it was the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) which caused some embarrassment to the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) by retaining the Puthuppally seat in Kerala with a record margin. These results are precursor to the five state assembly polls later this year and early next year and the Lok Sabha elections in May/June 2024. They indicate that the coalition is not working smoothly and needs lot of introspection among the Opposition parties. It cannot afford to allow such kind of hollowness in the bloc as the parties appear unwilling to accommodate partners. If the I.N.D.I.A. bloc wishes to be accommodative why did it allow a contest between the UDF and LDF in Kerala? This may have raised doubts  about the cohesiveness of Opposition bloc. In West Bengal, two I.N.D.I.A. bloc parties, CPI-M and Congress, took on their ally, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the BJP-ruled Dhugpuri constituency. However the TMC prevailed to assert the party’s supremacy in the state.

Similarly, look at the poll results at the CPI-M’s erstwhile bastion of Tripura, where its allies’ votes also visibly have not transferred to its candidate and this was evident from the BJP’s comfortable victory margins. These results continued to cast a shadow of suspicion on some I.N.D.I.A. bloc partners’ agenda. Lack of such understanding is not going to help the Opposition bloc anyway when it comes to assembly or Lok Sabha elections. Interestingly, the BJP could also retain its seat in Uttarakhand. The fourth seat for the Opposition bloc came from Jharkhand, where its ally the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) bagged Dumri. Thus far, it appears there is no dramatic shift of the electorate in favour of the I.N.D.I.A. bloc. This is also by and large evident from almost all major political parties – BJP, Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), TMC and JMM-  as all have retained their hold over their constituencies.

The by-poll results are seen as a test for the I.N.D.I.A. bloc against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead of the five assembly and the crucial Lok Sabha polls. But, that message has not come out. More than the Opposition, the BJP seems to be jubilant as it could ensure the Communists do not regain their lost ground in Tripura. Similarly, the BJP has managed to retain its Bageshwar assembly seat in Uttarakhand to consolidate its position in the Himalayan state. But, the JMM candidate Bebi Devi’s impressive win of Dumri seat by over 17000 votes against  Yashoda Devi of All Jharkhand Students Union party, an ally of NDA, undoubtedly works as a morale-booster. The seat fell vacant after the death of Bebi Devi’s husband, Jagannath Mahto, who was a minister in Hemant Soren’s cabinet. The message of the by-polls is loud and clear that the strong regional parties like the SP in Uttar Pradesh where 80 Lok Sabha seats are at stake or the TMC in West Bengal with 42, or the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, where there 39 seats, may find it difficult to accommodate any of their I.N.D.I.A. partners, including the Congress. Meanwhile, the reported reunion of the Janata Dal (United) of former Prime Minister Deve Gowda with its erstwhile ally  BJP, certainly set to create problems for the Congress, which wrested power from the BJP in the state with a landslide victory. Against that backdrop, even the Congress may find it difficult to allot seats to any of the Opposition bloc members, including that of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, which is desperate to expand its footprint in the down south. Thus far, the I.N.D.I.A. bloc has many holes to plug, if it wishes to win close to 200 Lok Sabha seats from its present strength of130.