No country for the unaffiliated - Hindustan Times
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No country for the unaffiliated

ByHT Editorial
Jun 06, 2024 09:11 PM IST

Political parties that stayed away from alliances face an existential crisis

The 2014 verdict, which gave the BJP a simple majority in the Lok Sabha, suggested that the country may be leaving behind the coalition era of nearly a quarter century. The Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) it headed were decimated in that election. Five years later, the BJP, riding on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, won 303 seats, indicating that the polity was heading for a unipolar moment; the Congress had state-level alliances that failed to find traction among voters, except in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. However, regional outfits such as the Trinamool Congress, YSRCP, Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Samajwadi Party, and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) survived the Modi blitz and found decent representation in the Lok Sabha. The 2024 general elections have altered the national picture. The BJP is 32 seats short of a simple majority, though the NDA at 293 appears set to form the government. The INDIA bloc led by the Congress, an expanded version of the 2004-14 UPA, has emerged as a strong Opposition with 235 MPs. Clearly, the polity has turned bipolar, with voters backing two strong coalitions. Political parties that chose to stay outside these two alliances have fared poorly; the lone rangers now face an existential crisis. There are just 16 seats in the Lok Sabha that have been won by independents or parties that are not part of either INDIA or NDA.

New Delhi: Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, AAP's Sanjay Singh and other leaders addresses the media after the INDIA bloc leaders� meeting at Kharge's residence, in New Delhi, Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary) (PTI06_05_2024_000314A)(PTI) PREMIUM
New Delhi: Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, AAP's Sanjay Singh and other leaders addresses the media after the INDIA bloc leaders� meeting at Kharge's residence, in New Delhi, Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary) (PTI06_05_2024_000314A)(PTI)

Take the case of regional heavyweights including the BJD, BRS, AIADMK and BSP that refused to join any alliance. These will have no representatives in the Lok Sabha whereas the YSRCP, another lone ranger, has barely survived the storm (its tally is down to four from 22 in 2019); The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the oldest allies of the BJP, left the NDA in 2020 and is now down to a single seat (its vote share fell from 26.3% in 2014 to 13.4% in 2024). On the other hand, parties that opted for alliances — the Telugu Desam Party, Janata Dal (United) and Janata Dal (Secular) in NDA, Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party factions in NDA and INDIA, and the Communist parties — have salvaged some ground and will have representation in the lower house of Parliament.

Interestingly, the YSRCP, BJD and BRS, which used to support the BJP’s legislative agenda in Parliament but refused to be a part of NDA, have seen their collective tally drop from 43 seats in 2019 to just four this time. All three parties have lost in their respective strongholds — Andhra Pradesh (YSRCP), Odisha (BJD), and Telangana (BRS) – and two have even lost the state (the third did in December itself). Clearly, the electorate prefers clarity about where the parties stand in a time of great ideological polarisation.

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