The 25-year-old National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is a “coalition of contributions and not compulsion”, with development being its main agenda, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on July 18, drawing a line between the NDA and the new Opposition alliance, INDIA, announced in Bengaluru on the same day.
The Prime Minister was addressing the leaders of 38 parties who had gathered for a meeting of the BJP-led NDA in New Delhi. He thanked the NDA leaders for reposing faith in him, and said he “can make mistakes but I will not do anything out of ill intention”.
The meeting, organised as the alliance completes 25 years (with several changes in the number of constituents), saw Mr. Modi pay homage to NDA founding members Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Balasaheb Thackeray, Parkash Singh Badal, George Fernandes and Sharad Yadav. He said it was “heartening to see their true heirs” present in the meeting, a direct reference to Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde of the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal (Dhindsa). Both the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal have witnessed splits, with Mr. Shinde and Mr. Dhindsa joining the NDA.
Mr. Modi said coalitions that start with negativity were never successful, attesting the endurance of the NDA to the fact that it was formed in 1998 with a positive agenda of governance and stability. He said stability “brings with it the strength to make decisions that span epochs and bring glory”.
He said the alliances forged by the Opposition parties, as the one agreed upon on Tuesday, were wrecked by compulsions. The United Progressive Alliance government was a recent example where there was a high command over the post of Prime Minister, corruption, and no accountability.
Whenever any scams were brought to light, it was termed as a coalition compulsion to turn a blind eye, he said. “We are lucky that NDA is opposite to that. Ours is a coalition of strength and not compulsion, a coalition of contributions, and not compulsion. Credit and responsibility is of everyone. No party is considered big or small, we are there for a common aim. In 2014 and 2019, BJP got more seats than required for a majority but government was that of the NDA,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that the Opposition was repeating the mistake of doubting the understanding of the common people. “People know why these parties are getting together, and what is the glue holding them together,” he said.
He attacked the Opposition’s behaviour as having “no respect for mandates”.
“When we were in Opposition, even then we did constructive politics. We never adopted a negative agenda, we carried out our responsibility as an Opposition. We exposed scams and acts of omission and commission of the government but did not disrespect mandates. We also never asked for help from foreign countries to destabilise the government (a reference to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remarks abroad) , nor obstructed development. Nowadays we see that many State governments do not allow Central schemes in their States; if they are implemented then they are not done so constructively, Chief Ministers of non-BJP-led governments feel that if the Central government’s programmes are successful then it will hit their own survival,” he said.
He revealed that he had written countless letters to the Chief Ministers of non-BJP-ruled States for the implementation of programmes like Har Ghar Jal (tap water programme).
He said that the policy of the NDA was “nation first, security of nation first, progress and empowerment of people first”.
“Politics can have rivalry but not enmity. But unfortunately, the Opposition has only one identity — of abusing and deriding us. Despite this, the NDA has always held country above politics. We didn’t bring party politics into consideration when late President Pranab Mukherjee was awarded the Bharat Ratna under an NDA government. Senior leaders like Mulayam Singh, Sharad Pawar, Ghulam nabi Azad, Tarun Gogoi, S C Jamir, and Muzzaffar Baig got Padma awards. We accepted and respected their contribution. This democratic spirit will be found in all work of NDA government,” he said.
He spoke at length of about the NDA’s programmes of poverty alleviation, which, he said, were closely hewed to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar and Ram Manohar Lohia. He mentioned several welfare programmes of the NDA and said that the government in the past nine years had disbursed over ₹30 lakh crores in these programmes and had, via Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) saved ₹3 lakh crores from reaching fake beneficiaries.
He emphasised women’s empowerment as one of the highest priorities of the NDA government. “The NDA government had the privilege of seeing the first tribal woman as President of India in its tenure,” he said.
He said that people in India and even foreign countries, which had concluded major agreements with the government in a poll going year were clear that the NDA would return to power. “With the collective strength of our alliance, we, who got 38% of the vote in 2014, 45% of the vote in 2019 will come back with over 50% of the vote in 2024,” he said.
The NDA meeting on Tuesday also passed a unanimous resolution that the alliance will go into the 2024 Lok Sabha election under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We also resolved that our effort will be to win the next polls with a bigger margin to better serve the country,” said Apna Dal (Sonelal) chief and Union Minister Anupriya Patel.
The resolution was moved by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and seconded by Edappadi K. Palaniswami of the AIADMK and Atul Bora of Asom Gana Parishad.