India elections: Can anyone beat Narendra Modi?

World

India’s wildly popular and divisive leader Narendra Modi is set to sweep to victory as the world’s biggest election kicks off.

After a decade in power, pollsters predict a third win for the prime minister and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the back of economic growth and support from the Hindu majority.

Mr Modi is challenged by the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), a coalition of opposition parties led by the Indian National Congress (INC) party.

But it faces an uphill struggle. Opposition parties have accused Mr Modi of using federal agencies to cripple them with raids, intimidation, freezing bank accounts and in some cases sending their leaders to jail.

Here are some of Modi’s main rivals:

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Indian National Congress (INC)

In opposition for a decade, the INC is India’s oldest political party. Since India became independent in 1947, it has dominated the political landscape.

It is considered to sit in the centre ground of India’s politics, advocating secular policies geared at equal opportunity.

Its most prominent member and former leader is Rahul Gandhi, son of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and grandson to former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Image:
Rahul Gandhi. Pic: Reuters

It crashed out of government in 2014, amid a series of corruption allegations and Mr Modi swept to power.

Mr Gandhi quit as party leader after a miserable performance at the last parliamentary polls in 2019.

Yet he remains its star campaigner and Mr Modi’s fiercest critic.

Image:
Arvind Kejriwal. Pic: Reuters

The embattled Delhi chief minister

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or Common Person’s Party emerged from a strong anti-corruption movement in 2011 that swelled amid protests led by Anna Hazare – a self-styled crusader backed by close aide, Arvind Kejriwal.

Mr Kejriwal formed the AAP in 2012 and staged an upset in 2015 by winning power in the city of Delhi.

Serving as Delhi’s chief minister ever since, he is a staunch critic of Mr Modi and an ally of the INC in the 2024 elections.

However, his party’s chances were dealt a blow when Mr Kejriwal was arrested by a federal agency on 21 March.

India’s economic intelligence agency, which is controlled by Mr Modi’s government, has accused Mr Kejriwal’s party and ministers of accepting one billion rupees (£9.5m) in bribes over Delhi’s alcohol policy.

Mr Kejriwal called his arrest “a political conspiracy” and his party has denied the “fabricated” allegations.

Image:
Aam Aadmi Party supporters protest against the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi. Pic: Reuters

Centre-left party from the south

A strong regional force in India’s south and India’s third-largest party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) still only won 24 seats in the lower house of parliament and 2.3% of the vote at the last elections.

The DMK are considered a centre-left or left-wing party and has expressed support for the LGBT community.

An ally of the INC, the party also runs Tamil Nadu state in the south, where the poverty rate is 2% – one of the lowest in the nation, and boasts a high literacy rate.

It is led by MK Stalin, chief minister of Tamil Nadu and former mayor of Chennai.

Read more from Sky News:
Modi seeks third term
The Modi juggernaut rolls on

Image:
Mamata Banerjee. Pic: Reuters

All India Trinamool Congress (TMC)

The TMC is India’s fourth-largest party by seats in parliament, mainly holding power in the state of West Bengal in the east of the country.

Founder of the party Mamata Banerjee has been the state head for more than a decade and is now a reluctant ally of the INC in fighting Mr Modi’s BJP.

One of the TMC candidates for the 2024 election is Mahua Moitra, a persistent critic of Mr Modi.

The former investment banker was expelled from parliament last year over allegations of accepting bribes from a businessman in exchange for parliamentary questions – charges Ms Mitra says are false.

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