When BJP derided the coming together of opposition parties under INDIA alliance last July as the banding of the “corrupt” against Narendra Modi, little did the ruling camp realise that the 16 disparate and volatile regional satraps could forge a seamless coordination under a common policy platform which would give the NDA a run for its money.
Mandate2024, billed as Modi’s ticket to political history, ended up becoming a challenge that stopped BJP short of majority and the ruling NDA of a super majority, both being seen as a foregone conclusion.
The SP-Congress partnership in Uttar Pradesh delivered a jolt bordering on embarrassment, while the Maha Vikas Aghadi gave another major shock to BJP. The JMM-Congress-CPI(ML)-RJD combine put up a good fight in Jharkhand despite the govt putting its mascot, Hemant Soren, in prison. The same was true about National Conference-Congress in J&K-Ladakh. If the list is long, its only underscores the wide social net that INDIA bloc weaved.
The pooling of bases and resources with a joint campaign worked in many ways, best illustrated by the contrast of 2022 assembly polls in UP when Akhilesh Yadav had spurned the Congress. The SP fell way short as BJP romped home with a massive tally, despite evidence of resentment on the ground. Fast forward to 2024, the joining of hands by SP and Congress fashioned a social base appealing to the backwards. Many aver it was Rahul Gandhi’s presence as the ideological bulwark against Modi which ensured maximum consolidation of anti-BJP forces – backwards on social justice, Muslims on communalism, and Dalits on atrocities and threat to “Ambedkar’s Constitution”. The complete overlap of the otherwise disparate agendas, helped by Congress’s own shift towards Mandalite politics of the SP brand, produced a social churn that BJP was not ready for.

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Just how the word “gathbandhan” spread in a matter of weeks across the heartland states, ensuring vote transfer among allies, is nothing short of a miracle.
The big glue in the alliance was the willingness of Congress to sacrifice seats, ceding constituencies in Maharashtra, UP and Bihar that it would not have otherwise.
Even the otherwise discordant notes helped the alliance. The Congress and AAP refused to join hands in Punjab as a strategy, realising that top two players aligning would open the space for a third party. In the end, BJP drew a cipher. Congress and Left front stayed as traditional poles in Kerala, limiting the belligerent BJP. The only friction was in West Bengal, where TMC refused to partner Congress despite entreaties. But the net big loser was BJP.

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