New Delhi: During the fourth meeting of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc on December 19 to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the 28-party opposition grouping decided to launch its joint campaign in January.
The INDIA bloc leaders also decided to finalise the seat sharing talks by December end.
The fourth meeting took place in the national capital on December 19 and discussed several crucial issues.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee took a soft stand towards the Congress and proposed the name of Mallikarjun Kharge as the opposition bloc Prime Ministerial candidate.
Even Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal endorsed Banerjee’s move to announce Kharge as the Prime Ministerial candidate.
However, Kharge downplayed the request of Banerjee and Kejriwal and asked all the 28 parties to focus on winning more seats across the country first and decide on the Prime Ministerial candidate after the elections.
The message was clear as Kharge wants the regional parties to focus on winning seats against the BJP and the NDA across the country.
Kharge, in view of the demands from the alliance partners of the INDIA bloc over finalising the seat sharing deal, announced a five-member National Alliance Committee with senior party leader Mukul Wasnik as its chairman and former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Mohan Prakash and Salman Khurshid as its members.
During the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on December 21, former party chief Rahul Gandhi asked the leaders to give space to the regional parties.
The party agrees that the seat sharing talks in the states of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu need to be dealt with as soon as possible.
Even as the party leaders are in a huddle with the other alliance partners emphasizing on completing the talks by December 31, the Congress feels that the seat sharing talks will take at least three weeks to reach a conclusion.
A source in the grand old party said that the seat sharing talks will be smooth as it is ready to show a big heart and play the role of a big brother.
The Congress faces delicate alliance partners in Uttar Pradesh where the alliance involves the Samajwadi Party (SP), and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). Similar is the case.in Punjab and Delhi where it involves the AAP and in West Bengal with the Trinamool Congress along with the Left parties.
In Uttar Pradesh with the Samajwadi Party as the principal Opposition being the most dominant player, relations have not been most cordial in the politically crucial state which sends the maximum number of 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
The Congress had drawn the Samajwadi Party’s ire for not sharing seats with it in the recent Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, with the latter then warning that the grand old party would get the “tit-for-tat treatment” in Uttar Pradesh.
The RLD was also unhappy when it was given just one seat by the Congress in the Rajasthan polls. The Congress was decimated in both the states.
The source said that several Congress state leaders want the party to stake claim to 20-25 seats, as it had won 21 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
In West Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress has also been at loggerheads with the Congress state unit chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who despite the alliance at the national level has been targeting the Mamata Banerjee government in the state.
In Punjab and Delhi, the alliance involves the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and many Congress leaders have openly voiced going it alone in the states instead of having an alliance with the party.
In Bihar, where the alliance involves the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-United and the Left parties, the Congress wants at least 10 seats out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats.
The INDIA bloc has also decided to hold eight to ten joint public meetings in crucial states to give a message of unity ahead of the high octane battle in 2024.
After Tuesday’s meeting of the INDIA bloc, Rahul Gandhi spoke to Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
According to sources in the Janata Dal (United), Rahul clarified the Congress’s stance on Kharge’s name being proposed for the prime ministerial face by Banerjee and Kejriwal on Tuesday.
Rahul Gandhi and Nitish Kumar discussed the strength of the alliance during their telephonic conversation.
After the coming together of Nitish Kumar-Tejashwi Yadav at the residence of Kharge along with Rahul Gandhi for the first time in April this year, Kharge had dubbed it as “historic” and said that they aim to unite all the opposition parties for the upcoming polls.