After Surprise Election Boost, India’s Opposition Still Has Work to Do

After Surprise Election Boost, India’s Opposition Still Has Work to Do
A supporter of India’s opposition Congress party cheers as party leader Priyanka Gandhi addresses an election rally in Dhubri district, lower Assam, India, May 1, 2024 (AP photo by Anupam Nath).

When India’s newly elected parliament, the Lok Sabha, convened for the first time on June 22, television screens and social media across the country were flooded with images of opposition leaders walking into Parliament, a visible spring in their steps, while holding up copies of the Indian Constitution. Days later, Rahul Gandhi, the most prominent leader of the Congress party, was appointed the leader of the parliamentary opposition, the first time the position has been officially filled during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decade in office.* Taking on the mantle, Gandhi delivered his first address in the same aggressive, combative style that was visible throughout the recent election campaign, causing Modi and his most senior Cabinet minister to spring to their feet to angrily defend their government.

This is a stark contrast to the previous Lok Sabha, in which parliamentary debate was all but absent, crucial bills were passed within minutes of being tabled and opposition members were routinely suspended and even disqualified on dubious grounds. Going into the 2024 elections, which were conducted in seven phases between April 19 and June 1, Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, had done everything—including abusing its power—to stifle all political contestation. In late March, days before the official campaign, the Congress party announced that several of its bank accounts had been frozen, while a key opposition leader—Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, or AAP—was jailed.

Indeed, Kejriwal’s arrest highlighted a trend on display throughout Modi’s first two terms in office, during which there was a fourfold jump in criminal cases brought against politicians, 95 percent of whom were from the opposition. Moreover, these cases miraculously disappeared when the concerned politicians switched parties, causing an exodus of opposition leaders to the BJP and leading many to jokingly refer to the BJP as a “washing machine.”

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.