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Widening Cracks in INDIA Bloc as Parliamentary Elections Approach

Widening Cracks in INDIA Bloc as Parliamentary Elections Approach


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 9: Barring perhaps Maharashtra, the widening cracks in the Opposition INDIA bloc have started coming to the fore almost in every other state over seat-sharing creating doubt if the opposition alliance would survive till the Lok Sabha elections due in the next four months.

In the western state of Maharashtra, though the formula for sharing the 48 seats in the Lok Sabha from the state has not yet been announced, all the partners of the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance after a meeting on Tuesday claimed themselves to be “on the same page” with confidence that the understanding would remain intact to contest the parliamentary elections against the BJP and its partners, the split away groups of Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party.

While in West Bengal, the chief minister and the ruling party chief Mamata Banerjee refused to have any trucks with the “terrorist party CPM, also a partner of the INDIA bloc, the Congress is certain to have problems in reaching understanding with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi and Punjab as well as with the TMC in West Bengal and with the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar, the states already in focus for discussions on seat-sharing.

The Maharashtra’s MVA, an alliance of Shiv Sena UBT, Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Congress, have come to an understanding on the division of the state’s 48 seats. After a meeting on Tuesday evening, Sena’s Sanjay Raut said he was smiling was “an indicator” of how the meeting went. “We are all together and will be united… we have discussed each and every seat,” Mr Raut told reporters after the mega meeting, which went on for nearly three hours.

“We will be the first state to announce seats… The Shiv Sena May have spilt, but the people are with the Uddhav faction and the same with the NCP… We will be together for the elections,” senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, the Congress’s state in-charge said.

Congress’s Salman Khurshid, who attended the meeting for Uttar Pradesh, said things were going in the “right direction.” “We are on the same page, I feel we could communicate very well,” he added, calling it an “excellent meeting.” Asked if there was a possibility of chemistry developing between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, he said it was “beyond” his imagination.  “We just need to be firm and take it forward,” he added.

For the Congress, seat sharing discussions are not likely to be a cakewalk, given its troubled relationship with parties like the TMC, SP and AAP at the state levels though they all are partners of the INDIA bloc. All three parties have indicated that they are not open to sharing with the Congress. The SP was particularly annoyed after the rebuff it received from the Congress during the recent elections to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly by the then state Congress chief Kamal Nath who has since been deposed from the post.

In Bengal, Congress would like to have five seats, but Mamata Banerjee has made it clear that she is not ready to offer any. The matter has not been officially discussed yet. Congress’s discussion with AAP is also proving contentious. While the party wants four seats in Delhi and seven seats in Punjab, AAP is not ready to comply. In both Delhi and Punjab, the ruling party wants the bigger share of seats. AAP also wants to contest in Goa, Haryana and Gujarat, sources said.

In Bihar, the Congress and the RJD have conducted the preliminary talks. Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United will not settle for less than 17 of the state’s 40 seats. It is likely that the RJD would also contest 17 seats in line with the 2015 assembly polls formula. Five seats can go to the Congress and one to the CPI-ML.

Banerjee told a meeting in Jaynagar in South 24 Parganas that she would fight against both the BJP and the Left. “The terrorist party CPI(M) is helping the BJP. For 34 years, it has played with people’s minds and I will not have any understanding with it. Today they sit in front of the camera and talk. What did they do for 34 years (while they were in power)? How much allowance did people get? Over 20,000 people got government jobs (in the TMC’s tenure). During their regime, people got nothing.”

A senior party leader reiterated Mamata’s stance. “Since its inception, the TMC has fought against the CPI(M). It was obvious that there would be no alliance. The CM has also made it clear now,” he said. Last week, the CPI(M) too had ruled out any alliance with the TMC with general secretary Sitaram Yechury saying it was difficult for the three – CPI(M), Congress and TMC – to come onto a common platform in the state. “We will continue to fight the BJP on a national level as a part of the INDIA bloc but will never have an understanding with the TMC in Bengal,” he had said.

On Sunday, CPI(M) State Secretary Md Selim accused the TMC of having a tacit understanding with the BJP to shield its leaders from central agencies. “The corrupt TMC can never genuinely confront the BJP. It has a clandestine understanding with the BJP to shield its leaders from the scrutiny of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED),” he had said.

A section of the Congress too is against breaking its alliance with the Left party, giving rise to a possible scenario of both the parties not allying with the TMC for the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress and TMC too have been at loggerheads over seat-sharing after reports emerged that the ruling party was ready to leave only two of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state for the grand old party. The move had prompted strong reactions from state Congress chief and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary who said he did not need Banerjee’s pity. “Mamata Banerjee does not want an alliance. That is why she has let it known that she was willing to give two seats (that the Congress currently has) to the Congress. Her statements on alliance have no credibility. Had she been sincere, she should have expressed regret on the attacks that had been taking place on the Opposition (in Bengal),” he had said.

Though Banerjee refrained from speaking about the Congress on Tuesday, TMC West Bengal General Secretary Kunal Ghosh took the grand old party on without naming it. “Sometimes, children in front of tea stalls demand 10 or 20 biscuits without realising that they are capable of eating only three or four,” he said in an apparent reference to the Congress’s demand for more Lok Sabha seats in the state. The remark did not go down well with the Congress, with party spokesperson Soumya Aich Roy accusing Ghosh of misleading people. “We are and will continue to fight against the TMC’s corrupt practices,” he said.

The Congress and the TMC have collided head-on over the assault on an ED team in Sandeshkhali village of North 24 Parganas district when it arrived to raid the house of block-level TMC functionaries Shahjahan Sheikh and Shankar Adhya. “After the attack by goons of the ruling government on ED officials, it is clear that there is no law and order in the state. Today, they were injured, tomorrow they can be murdered,” Chowdhury said and talked about President’s Rule in the state.




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