At the conclusion of a four-hour-long meeting of the Opposition on Tuesday, the 26 parties announced the name of their alliance — INDIA, standing for Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance. They framed the 2024 electoral contest as a fight between the BJP and the rest of the country. The name, sources said, was decided even before the leaders sat down for the meeting on Tuesday morning.
The Opposition leaders remained guarded about who came up with the name first, but, according to sources, a select group of leaders met after the dinner hosted by the Congress. Several names got tossed around among this group. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had during the “Bharat Jodo Yatra” stressed on the growing chasm between “two Indias” and the Congress wanted the name of the alliance to address this. Sources said the name resonated with the others in the group too, especially since many felt that it was time for the Opposition to recapture the “nationalism” plank, which the BJP has been monopolising. But keeping with the Congress’ current strategy of not being seen as an overt driver of the Opposition grouping, the Trinamool Congress was encouraged to propose the name at the meeting.
The thrust of the deliberations was on picking a name which would effectively counter the BJP’s narrative of “nationalism” and thus the name — INDIA.
Among the other names considered were “Progressive People’s Alliance”, “Indian People’s Front” and “People’s Alliance for India”.
On Tuesday, after Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s opening remarks, Trinamool Congress president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke. A senior leader said that she proposed the name INDIA. She was quoted as saying that the contest was not between the BJP and the Opposition but “between the BJP and the rest of the India”. At a press conference later, Mr. Kharge said that “everyone unanimously agreed to the name”.
There was a debate over what the acronym should spell out as — should the “N” stand for “new” or “national” and should the “D” stand for “democratic” or “developmental”. Using the word “democratic”, many argued, would make it sound very similar to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The others reasoned that the battle for 2024 had to be fought on dispelling the BJP’s narrative of “ache din”. They highlighted the growing chasm between the rich and the poor, and therefore felt that “developmental” would go well.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury according to sources, argued that the Opposition must not use the word “alliance” just yet, because in some States, many of the 26 parties would be standing against each other. He cited Kerala as an example where the Left parties would contest against the Congress and said that it would look ridiculous if the constituents of the “alliance” stood against each other. Instead, he proposed that the Opposition should go with the name “V4People”. This was however rejected as many felt that it sounded less like a name and more like a campaign tagline.
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The Aam Aadmi Party, whose genesis is rooted in the India against corruption campaign, wholeheartedly embraced the new name, sources said.
Sources said that former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who spoke at the very end, “passionately” argued for this name, as the Opposition must recapture the “nationalism” plank that the BJP has been using. At the press conference, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray said, “Jiske liye ladh rahe hai uske naam par ladenge (we will fight in the name of what we are fighting for).”
Another Opposition leader quipped that the name effectively put an end to the debate on “Modi versus who?” It is now Modi versus INDIA.
Many leaders expressed the apprehension that the name INDIA is too English and would not resonate in the Hindi belt. They also argued that the acronym does not translate well in Hindi or other regional languages. But these objections were set aside.