NEW DELHI, Dec 4: Though the West Bengal chief minister and the Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has opted out of the next meeting of the opposition alliance INDIA on Wednesday, the opposition leaders disagreed that it indicated any crack in the bloc following the Congress rout in the Hindi heartland in the elections to the five states considered as the semi-final in the run up to the 2024 Parliamentary elections.
Several opposition leaders asserted that the results would not impact the INDIA bloc, stressing the bloc needs to work harder for the Lok Sabha polls. “Victories and losses happen. We should learn from the defeat, as well as from those who have won. India has to be one, it is for everyone, and we need to strengthen the country,” National Conference (NC) leader Farooq Abdullah said.
“INDIA has to get back where we started,” said Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. “We started on the point that we have to support the parties in the regions they are strong in. The 2024 polls will be historic. There will be change.”
Mamata Banerjee said she was not attending Wednesday’s meeting because she was unaware about it and had pre-scheduled tour of North Bengal. She also denied it indicated any crack in the alliance and said had she been available on that day she would have certainly attended the meeting. Ms Banerjee, who said the Congress lost the recent state elections due to a lack of seat-sharing arrangements with other INDIA members, has a pre-scheduled programme in north Bengal on that day.
“I am not aware about this (the meeting). That’s why I have already scheduled a programme in north Bengal. I have a seven-day programme there. Had I known, would I have kept this programme? I would have surely gone for it. But because we have no information, I am going for the north Bengal tour,” she said. Her party Trinamool Congress may also skip the meeting, sources said.
After Mamata Banerjee’s announcement, Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh said the meeting was an “informal” one. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge on Sunday called for the next meeting of the opposition bloc even as it was handed big defeats by the BJP in three states. The meeting is being held after a gap of three months since the last one in Mumbai on August 31 and September 1.
The meeting is expected to chalk out plans for next year’s Lok Sabha election. The BJP swept Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, handing a shattering defeat to the Congress to tighten its stranglehold in the Hindi heartland. The only proverbial silver lining for the Congress was Telangana where it ousted the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in the state assembly elections.
The Congress, which put the Opposition alliance in a state of limbo as it focused on the state elections, received flak from the INDIA bloc allies who blamed the party’s decision not to fight the elections together. The Bengal Chief Minister, earlier in the day, said the Congress decision to fight the polls on its led to a “division of votes”.
“Congress has won Telangana. They would have won Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Some votes were cut by INDIA parties. This is the truth. We had said suggested a seat-sharing arrangement. They lost because of division of votes,” Ms Banerjee said.
Trinamool Congress National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee said, “The attempt to bring everyone together should gain momentum. It should be reflected in the actions and not in their words.” “Ultimately, everybody is fighting unitedly against the autocratic BJP. Not much time is left and hence, we should utilise the time which is left. Ignoring the self-interests, we need to work for the interests of the people. Keeping aside the political ego, people who are strong and competent in their regions should be given the chance to fight. This will benefit the people,” he added.
On Sunday, the National Conference leader Omar Abdullah taunted the Congress for belatedly remembering the INDIA alliance: “On December 6, the Congress chief has invited some INDIA alliance leaders for lunch. They recalled the INDIA alliance after three months. Let’s see.”
The Congress, a day after the drubbing, said it would introspect what happened in the two states it held – Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh – and Madhya Pradesh. Mr Kharge, according to the sources, said, “Mistakes have taken place and we will make course corrections. Over confidence in some states and refusal to adhere to proper candidates and campaign cost us in the last few days of the elections,” he added.