Road to 2024: Seat-sharing, state-level ties to figure in 'INDIA' alliance talks

Setting up 11-member coordination committee to be of utmost importance
FILE - Leaders from the opposition parties at the meeting of 'INDIA' alliance in Bengaluru, July 18, 2023. (Photo | PTI)
FILE - Leaders from the opposition parties at the meeting of 'INDIA' alliance in Bengaluru, July 18, 2023. (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI:  Opposition alliance INDIA is gearing up for its third crucial meeting in Mumbai on August 31 and September 1, which will set the tone for building a stronger strategy for the 2024 general elections. 

The agenda of the meeting involves setting up an 11-member coordination committee, deliberations on strategic issues including seat-sharing, shaping coalitions, and maximising anti-BJP votes at the state level.

The meeting will also unveil a logo and is expected to formulate a common minimum programme for the group. Leaders from 28 Opposition parties, including Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, MPs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and chief ministers of six non-BJP-ruled states will participate in the third meeting of the bloc.

Senior leaders involved in back-channel talks said that setting up of the 11-member coordination committee and selecting a convenor for the group will be of utmost importance.

The coordination committee will play a crucial role in seat-sharing talks among various parties and issues regarding leadership are also likely to be discussed, said a senior leader. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is likely to be the agreeable candidate for the convenor post, said a leader.  

Though the INDIA bloc is yet to discuss a face for the 2024 elections, senior Congress leaders including Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel have pitched for Rahul Gandhi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. “This may be the personal opinions of leaders. However, the leadership issue may figure in the meeting,” said another leader.

Significantly, the bloc is meeting for the first time after Rahul Gandhi was reinstated as an MP after getting Supreme Court relief in the 2019 defamation case. The Mumbai meeting also comes amid the growing tensions between the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).  

Both the parties were locked in a war of words after AAP’s recent efforts to penetrate Congress-ruled states of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where polls are due this year.

However, a senior leader said this won’t be a hurdle. “In states like Kerala, Punjab, Delhi and West Bengal, Congress will be in a direct fight with CPI (M), AAP and TMC. Though they fight each other in the state elections, there can be post-poll alliances. Even if they are rivals at state-level, all of them agree on the common goal of defeating the anti-democratic dispensation at the Centre,” he said.

More parties likely to join INDIA bloc, says Nitish

Ahead of the meeting of Opposition leaders in Mumbai, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday asserted that more parties were likely to join the INDIA bloc in the near future.

Kumar told media persons in Patna that parties from northeast India, eastern states, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh were interested in joining the Opposition alliance.

He, however, did not name the specific parties, adding that these were all regional parties. He said that all these parties were opposed to the BJP government at the Centre.

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The New Indian Express