Which are the 26 parties in the INDIA combine, the face of Opposition unity for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls? 

The Opposition’s new alliance comprising of 26 parties accounts for a total of less than 200 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha

July 26, 2023 07:34 pm | Updated October 03, 2023 12:52 am IST

A meeting of opposition parties was held in Bengaluru on July 17, 2023, as a run up to the general elections in 2024.

A meeting of opposition parties was held in Bengaluru on July 17, 2023, as a run up to the general elections in 2024. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

After high-stakes negotiations that started in April and two key meets in Patna and Bengaluru, 26 Opposition parties in the country, including two national and 24 regional parties, have managed to stitch together a grouping to fight the 2024 general elections against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The alliance, named Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), has the parties of the Chief Ministers of seven States and a total of 142 members in the Lok Sabha.

Notably, while the parties have come together as an anti-BJP front, several constituents of the formation are in direct contest with the largest Opposition party, the Indian National Congress, in many regions. The second national party, the AAP has had an inconsistent relationship with the INC. In West Bengal, Punjab and Kerala, constituents of INDIA continue to fight one another. As for the smaller regional parties that have come together, the two factions of the Kerala Congress are seen as arch-rivals. Meanwhile, the alliance still has to figure out seat-sharing agreements in key States.

Here’s a roundup of the current status of the 26 parties in the Opposition’s new alliance.

Indian National Congress: The Congress, the largest party in the opposition bloc, has 49 seats in the Lok Sabha and 31 in the Rajya Sabha, with a total of 80 MPs in Parliament. With its most recent win in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections, the party is directly ruling in four States — Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh. It is also part of ruling alliances in Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand. The vote share of the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was 19.5% and rose slightly to 19.7% in the 2019 General elections. This is because in 2019, it won just a little over 50 seats, a slight improvement over its 2014 performance when it won only 44 — an all-time low. In the year 2022, it won only 55 of the 690 seats in the Assembly elections held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, and just 17 in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly. In 2023, while it bagged 135 seats and came to power in Karnataka, it won just three out of 60 seats in Tripura, five of 60 in Meghalaya, and none in Nagaland.

The party has been facing multiple challenges including a leadership issue; Mallikarjun Kharge’s election as party President last year was seen as an extension of the Gandhi family’s indirect control rather than the installation of a disruptive new leadership. In another setback for the party, former President Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha in the aftermath of the Gujarat High Court’s verdict in a defamation case.

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress was the fulcrum of all Opposition unity talks while the groundwork was done by both Trinamool Chief Mamta Banerjee and Telugu Desam Party supremo Chandrababu Naidu. This time, Mr. Naidu is keeping his distance from the Opposition bloc and Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has stepped up to the plate. In 2023, many have questioned the Congress’ position as the leader of the pack and why it needs to be present in the Opposition bloc. However, the INC’s successive victories in Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka have bolstered its claims.

All India Trinamool Congress (TMC): The party, led by Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee, is the third largest in the country in terms of parliamentary strength with 35 MPs (23 in the Lok Sabha and 12 in the Rajya Sabha). It has been in power in West Bengal since 2011 when it dislodged the long-ruling Left Front in the State. The TMC, however, lost its national party status this year and is currently recognised as a State party in just one other State (Meghalaya) besides West Bengal.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK): The party, led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has 34 MPs in Parliament— 23 in the Lok Sabha and 12 in the Rajya Sabha. While it is the largest party in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, it also has six seats in the Union Territory of Puducherry. In the Lok Sabha, the party holds 23 of the 39 total seats from Tamil Nadu.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP): The AAP, with ruling governments in two States/UTs— Delhi and Punjab— and State party recognition in Goa and Gujarat, gained national party status earlier this year. The party has 11 MPs, one in the Lok Sabha and 10 in the Upper House. The party has had a complicated relationship with the Congress, but the latter’s support for the AAP in Parliament over the Delhi services ordinance issue prompted it to get on board with the Opposition alliance and attend its recent meeting in Bengaluru.

Janata Dal (United): Led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who hosted the first opposition meeting in Patna, the party officially has 21 MPs (16 Lok Sabha and five Rajya Sabha). Its effective strength could vary since Kumar snapped ties with the BJP last year and joined hands with the RJD and the Congress to stay in power in Bihar. The party has State party recognition in Bihar and Manipur. In the 2019 General elections, the party won 16 of the total 40 seats for Bihar in the Lower House. Mr. Kumar, who took oath as Chief Minister of Bihar for the eighth time last year, won six elections with the support of the BJP but recently broke the alliance.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD): Former Railways Minister and former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party last year formed an alliance with the JD(U) to become a part of the Bihar government with Mr. Pasad’s son Tejasvi Yadav as the deputy Chief minister. It is currently the largest party in the Bihar legislative Assembly in terms of seat strength (75). The party has six Rajya Sabha MPs. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party contested 21 of the 40 seats from Bihar but won none, unlike the 2014 elections where it contested 27 seats and won 4. It fought the previous two general elections as part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Samajwadi Party (SP): The party was founded by the late leader and three-time Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and is currently led by his son Akhilesh Yadav, who served one term as Chief Minister. It is the principal opposition party in Uttar Pradesh, which sends the maximum members (80) to Lok Sabha. It currently has three Lok Sabha and three Rajya Sabha MPs. In the last general elections, the party won just five seats; its tally came down further to just three seats in the Lower House after by-elections in 2022.

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD): The RLD, which primarily derives its support from western Uttar Pradesh, is led by Jayant Chaudhary, the son of party founder Ajit Singh and grandson of former prime minister Charan Singh. Jayant Chaudhary is the party’s sole MP (Rajya Sabha).

Communist Party of India (CPI): The CPI, founded in 1925, emerged as the second-largest party in the country’s first general elections in 1951-52, and two subsequent elections in 1957 and 1962. It has, however, its electoral base shrinking. Notably, it is the sole party in the country’s electoral history to have the same symbol— corn and a sickle— since the first general elections. In April this year, the Election Commission revoked its national party status owing to poor election showings. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the CPI contested 67 seats and bagged just one while in 2019, the party fought on 49 seats, winning two. It currently has two Lok Sabha members and two Rajya Sabha members. 

It lost its national status after losing State party recognition in West Bengal and Odisha. It currently retains State recognition in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Manipur. In Kerala, it is part of the ruling LDF.

Communist Party of India (Marxist): The CPI(M), currently led by former Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury, split from the CPI in 1964 and has had relatively better parliamentary election numbers, which, however, have also been on the decline. In 2014, it won nine of the 93 Lok Sabha seats it contested, while its tally came down to three seats in 2019 when it contested 71. It has eight MPs (three in Lok Sabha and five in Rajya Sabha). It is currently the largest bloc of the ruling LDF coalition in Kerala, where its leader Pinarayi Vijayan is the Chief Minister. It is also a part of the ruling alliances in Bihar and Tamil Nadu.

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation: Another breakaway faction of the CPI, the CPI-ML (Liberation) is currently part of the ruling coalition in Bihar. Headed by Dipankar Bhattacharya, the party has 12 MLAs in the State. It does not have representation in Parliament. 

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP): Founded by former Union Minister and Chief Minister of Maharashtra Sharad Pawar, NCP has suffered a split since the first meeting of opposition parties in Patna. The faction led by Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar has joined the Maharashtra government with the BJP and the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. The Sharad Pawar faction is currently part of the opposition in the State along with Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT). The pre-split NCP won five seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, one less than its 2014 tally. It currently has three MPs in the Lok Sabha, including Mr. Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, and two members in the Upper House.

Shiv Sena (UBT): The Shiv Sena, founded by Balasaheb Thackeray, split in June last year with a large chunk of MLAs led by Eknath Shinde joining hands with the BJP. After the 2019 Maharashtra polls, the Shiv Sena, then led by Uddhav Thackeray, had severed its ties with the BJP and joined hands with the NCP and the Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM): The party of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren leads a coalition government in the State. It has three MPs (one in Lok Sabha and two in Rajya Sabha).

Apna Dal (Kamerawadi): It is the Apna Dal faction led by party founder Sonelal Patel’s wife Krishna Patel and daughter Pallavi Patel. The Kamerawadi faction is aligned with the Samajwadi Party, while the Apna Dal (Sonelal) led by Union minister Anupriya Patel is part of the BJP-led NDA.

Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (NC): Led by former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, this party is among the key forces in Jammu and Kashmir. While it did not win any of the six Lok Sabha seats from the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir in 2014, it bagged three seats in the 2019 polls. It retains its three Lower House seats and does not have a member in the Rajya Sabha.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP): Another key player in Jammu and Kashmir, PDP is led by former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. It currently does not have any representation in Lok Sabha but had won three seats in the 2014 general elections.

Indian Union Muslim League (IUML): The IUML originated in Tamil Nadu as the Indian segment of the All-India Muslim League after the partition. It renamed itself as the IUML and adopted a new Constitution in 1991. Its main base is currently in Kerala, where it has been a long-time ally of the Congress and bagged 15 seats in the State’s Assembly in 2021, down from 18 in 2016. It is the second largest contingent in the Opposition UDF in Kerala led by the Congress. The party has a strong base in north Kerala, especially in the Malappuram district, and has been at the forefront of Muslim communitarian politics. It has three members in Lok Sabha and one in Rajya Sabha. Prominent faces include national general secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty and Rajya Sabha MP P.V. Abdul Wahab.

In Kerala, there had been speculation in the recent past about whether the party could break its long-term association with the UDF and join the CPI(M)-led ruling LDF fold. Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Kerala leadership of the IUML, led by Syed Sadik Ali Shihab Thangal, called for the unity of Opposition parties to counter the ‘fascist rule’ of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.

Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP): The RSP, originally founded in 1940 in Bengal, is part of the Left bloc. In Kerala, the RSP sprang from the Kerala Socialist Party (KSP) in the late 40s with a prominent Marxist group, led by N.Sreekantan Nair, Baby John, T.K. Divakaran, and K.Balakrishnan, leaving the KSP and forming a unit of the RSP. Over the decades, the party saw multiple factions in Kerala break away and form splinter parties; the RSP (Bolshevik) merged back into the RSP in 2014, while another faction formed the RSP (Leninist).

Currently, the party is part of the Congress-led UDF in the Opposition in Kerala. The RSP broke its over three-decade-long association with the ruling LDF in Kerala in 2014. In West Bengal and Tripura, it is a part of the Left Front. The party presently has no seats in the Kerala, West Bengal, or Tripura legislative assemblies, but has prominent leader N.K. Premachandran as a Lok Sabha MP from the Kollam constituency, which is also the party’s stronghold.

All India Forward Bloc: Now a smaller constituent of the Left bloc, the AIFB was founded by Subhas Chandra Bose. It currently does not have any representation in Parliament or any State assembly. The party does have some support in States once dominated by Left parties.

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK): The MDMK, with support bases in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, was formed by Rajya Sabha Member Vaiko, after he was expelled from the DMK in 1994, reportedly because he was perceived as a threat to M. Karunanidhi’s son and current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M.K. Stalin. The party broke away from the BJP-led NDA in December 2014 after the general elections, citing that the saffron party was “being insensitive” and “betraying the interests” of the people of Tamil Nadu and of the Sri Lankan Tamils. It is currently a member of the ruling DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu. It does not have any seats in the State Assembly or the Lok Sabha, but Mr. Vaiko is a member of the Upper House since 2019.

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK): The VCK or the Liberation Panthers Party, formerly known as the Dalit Panthers Iyakkam, began as a movement in Madurai in 1982 and boycotted electoral exercises for a decade. The party contested its first-ever State elections in Tamil Nadu in 1999 and has since been active in the State’s electoral politics, delivering its best showing in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, where it fought as a DMK-ally, securing four seats — two in general and two in reserved constituencies. It is currently a part of the ruling Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) in the State led by the DMK and is led by its founder, lawyer Thol. Thirumaavalavan. In the past, it has teamed up with the Congress, the BJP, and the AIADMK. While currently having MLAs only in Tamil Nadu, the party has been eying expansion in the Southern States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka, where it has contested local body elections.

At present, the party has four MLAs, and Mr. Thirumaavalavan as its sole Member of Parliament, with another party member, D. Ravikumar, being an MP elected under the DMK symbol. As the VCK has still not met the criteria to become a recognised political party in the State, it has fought with different symbols allotted by the Election Commission in each poll.

Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi (KMDK): Based in Kerala, the part was formed in 2013 when it split from the Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam (KMK). The party represents the Gounders caste in the Kongu Nadu region of Tamil Nadu. It is led by businessman-turned-politician E. R. Eswaran and is part of the DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu. It enjoys some support in western Tamil Nadu. The party has a member in Lok Sabha —A. K. P. Chinraj — but he won on the DMK symbol.

Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK): The MMK is led by M. H. Jawahirullah and is part of the DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu. Jawahirullah is currently an MLA and also serves as a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). The party has no member in Parliament.

Kerala Congress (Mani): The party, based in Kerala, was part of the erstwhile Kerala Congress, but a faction led by K.M. Mani spilt from it in 1979 to form the KC(M). The party, currently chaired by Jose K. Mani, has its stronghold in Kottayam. It is a part of the CPI(M)-led LDF. It won five seats in the State Assembly elections in 2021 and has one Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha member.

Ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the KC(M) is working out a strategy to affirm its special position in the agrarian core of Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts. The party completed an organisational revamp last year including a transition from a mass-based organisation to a cadre system. It also carried out an extensive membership campaign, claiming to have expanded its membership base to over five lakh.

Kerala Congress (Joseph): The party, and arch-rival of the KC(M), is led by P.J. Joseph. It is another splinter of the original Kerala Congress. The KC(M) and KC (Joseph) were involved in a legal battle in the Supreme Court over which faction would get to retain the KC(Mani) title after the demise of founder K.M. Mani. In 2021, the top court ruled in favour of Jose K. Mani. The KC(Joseph) merged itself with the Kerala Congress faction led by P.C. Thomas in 2021. The KC(Joseph) was part of the Congress-led UDF— the main challenger to the CPI(M)-led LDF in Kerala in the last Assembly polls.

(with imputs from PTI)

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