INDIA Bloc Leaves to State Units to Discuss Seat-Sharing Issues, to Organise Nation-wide Demonstrations on Friday
NEW DELHI, Dec 19: Re-uniting in full strength after months of break due to the elections to five state Assemblies, the opposition INDIA bloc at its meeting on Tuesday agreed to leave to the state units of the respective parties to discuss the contentious seat-sharing formula to take on the ruling BJP in the 2024 Parliamentary elections.
The Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, who had convened the opposition alliance meeting, said the seat-sharing arrangement between the parties would be first discussed in States. “If we are unable to agree in any particular State, then the central leaders will intervene.”
Sources said the Trinamool Congress and several other parties have decided to set December 31 as the deadline for seat-sharing talks. This was the fourth meeting of the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) which saw the participation of all the 28 parties which have joined the bloc.
The meeting is also learnt to have discussed the prime ministerial face of the opposition bloc, an issue the BJP had always tried to corner the INDIA to identify the leader to take on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was learnt that the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who had only on Monday that the INDIA bloc would not take a call on the prime ministerial candidate at this stage, took a 180-degree turn at the meeting by proposing Mr Kharge’s name for the post. Sources said Mr Kharge being a prominent Dalit face in the Opposition, the plan got widespread approval.
Twelve of the participating parties, sources said, applauded the plan. Even Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal — known for being mostly out-of-sync with the Congress — seconded the idea. “This is a chance to have the country’s first Dalit Prime Minister,” sources quoted him as saying.
The Opposition has faced sharp criticism from the ruling BJP for fielding candidates against Ramnath Kovind and Droupadi Murmu — members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes — during the Presidential elections. The BJP has accused the Congress and the other parties of being biased against Dalits and tribals.
The wide approval of Mr Kharge is also seen as an indication of his stature among the Opposition parties. On the other hand, it was seen as a snub to Rahul Gandhi, over whose candidature for the top post, the opposition has always been divided, particularly because many parties felt that projecting Gandhi as the prime ministerial face would only provide advantage to Modi.
Mr Kharge, however, poured cold water on the plan with a polite refusal, sources said. He said he only wanted to work for the downtrodden. “We have to win first, and think what to do to win. What is the point in discussing PM before having MPs. We will try to get a majority together,” Mr Kharge later told reporters when asked about the matter.
The meeting also decided that the INDIA bloc would hold nationwide protest on December 22 against the suspension already of 141 opposition MPs from Parliament during the current winter session. “141 MPs being suspended is undemocratic. The issue we raised was not a wrong issue. We have been saying that Home Minister and Prime Minister should come to the House and brief the members of both the Houses,” Mr Kharge said. “They can speak outside but not in Parliament,” he said in reference PM Modi and Mr Shah, adding that “Their intention is to end democracy.”
The Congress chief said everyone was unanimous about joint programmes and that the alliance plans to hold 8-10 more meetings. Though, unlike the previous meetings of the bloc, this one did not see other opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, Uddhav Thackeray, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav attend the post-meeting press conference.
Mr Kharge said 28 parties had taken part in Tuesday’s mega meet of the INDIA bloc, which is one of the many in the days to come. Mr Kharge said they would hold multiple meets across various cities. “Unless we do that we cannot raise people’s awareness,” he said.