So it’s the 38-party NDA versus the 26-party INDIA that will battle it out in next year’s general elections. The Opposition parties earlier this week in their much anticipated meeting in Bengaluru decided to call their alliance INDIA – Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance.
On the same day the BJP-led NDA held a conclave in New Delhi where it bandied together 38 parties to gear up for Battle 2024. It’s interesting to note a few contrasts in these two rival acronyms. The common letter ‘D’ denotes ‘Democratic’ in NDA and ‘Developmental’ (not development) in the INDIA alliance. The ‘I’ for inclusive, also signals an interesting narrative-shift on the part of the INDIA alliance, a clear takeaway from Rahul Gandhi’s successful Bharat Jodo Yatra.
But where do these two alliances stand in terms of economic policies? The nitty-gritty of the INDIA alliance regarding policies will emerge in the days ahead. But INDIA alliance talks about “economic sovereignty” premised upon a “fair economy with a strong and strategic public sector as well as a competitive and flourishing private sector”. In an era where Central governments use PSU disinvestment proceeds as a means to garner revenue, it remains to be seen how the INDIA alliance’s “strong and strategic public sector” will pan out in reality.
But there may not be much to differentiate regarding economic policy, as both alliances are likely to rely on a strong dose of “welfarism”. The BJP’s successful welfare delivery model was premised on two pillars that were erected by the Congress-led UPA – Aadhaar and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). The Karnataka Assembly election manifestoes, where both the BJP and Congress put out their list of welfare schemes, are a pointer to a “convergence” on development issues. So despite the posturing, the battle for 2024 is more likely to fought on the competing “Ideas of India” than on economic policy.