Stepping up their unity efforts, the 28-party Opposition INDIA alliance announced Friday that it will contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections together “as far as possible”, the caveat being an indirect acknowledgement that there could be challenges regarding seat-sharing in some states.
Given that different states have different electoral dynamics, the anti-BJP parties have decided to take up seat-sharing talks on a state-to-state basis.
Sources said a 14-member coordination and election strategy committee, announced at the end of the two-day Opposition conclave in Mumbai, will sit with state leaders of parties to initiate the discussion.
The alliance, which passed three resolutions, hopes to come to a seat-sharing arrangement at the state level for the general elections at the earliest – the idea being that there is one common candidate against the BJP in as many seats as possible.
The INDIA bloc’s announcements came a day after the government, in a surprise move, called a special session of Parliament later this month without giving any reason.
The alliance meeting also decided to hold joint rallies across the country. According to a leader who was present at the meeting, four rallies in South, East, West and North of the country will be organised to demonstrate the strength of the Opposition bloc. The election strategy committee will finalise the locations within a week or two.
It decided to coordinate respective communication media strategies and campaigns with the theme ‘Judega Bharat Jitega India’ in different languages.
The 14-member coordination and election strategy committee includes members from the leading parties of the alliance. It comprises KC Venugopal, INC; Sharad Pawar, NCP; TR Baalu, DMK; Hemant Soren, JMM; Sanjay Raut, SS; Tejasvi Yadav, RJD; Abhishek Banerjee, TMC; Raghav Chaddha, AAP; Javed Ali Khan, SP; Lallan Singh, JD(U); D Raja, CPI; Omar Abdullah, NC; Mehbooba Mufti, PDP; and CPM which will name a member later.
Apart from the main committee, there will be four other committees – campaign committee, working groups for social media, media and research. All parties of the alliance have been given representation in these committees.
The alliance did not unveil the logo which was in its programme schedule. A proposal by the TMC that the alliance should have a logo did not find favour with most parties. The idea was finally dropped, leaving the TMC a little unhappy.
The alliance also did not name a convener or a coordinator for the front.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “The stage of INDIA represents 60 per cent of the population and if we unite in an efficient way, it is impossible for the BJP to win.”
He said two important steps of forming committees and expediting and completing the seat-sharing talks have been taken at the meeting.
“Relationships forged between leaders of this alliance are more important. These meetings have built rapport and ensure that we work as one. There is flexibility among leaders despite differences between us,” Gandhi said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said joint rallies will be held soon and leaders of the alliance will travel to different parts of the country.
“We will be travelling to different locations to spread the word. The meetings will ensure that those at the Centre will lose for sure. It will also ensure the freedom of media as well. We will stand together. We have to be alert as elections can be held early as well. Responsibilities have been shared,” he said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejariwal said the INDIA alliance is not of 28 political parties but of 140 crore Indians who have joined to create “21st century India”.
Slamming the BJP-led government and calling it “corrupt” and “arrogant”, Kejriwal said, “We are working together. No one here is eyeing for a post. We have taken responsibilities, like seat-sharing, media, social media and campaign design.”
A resolution adopted by the alliance stated, “We, the INDIA parties, hereby resolve to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections together as far as possible. Seat-sharing arrangements in different states will be initiated immediately and concluded at the earliest in a collaborative spirit of give-and-take.”
All the parties, the leaders said, have agreed to exhibit a sense of accommodative spirit. But it is the Congress, with a pan-India footprint, which will have to show maximum accommodation.
Another proposal was for Congress leader Digvijaya Singh to make a presentation on EVMs but many leaders felt the alliance should not begin the campaign on a negative note. Moreover, the Congress had just won the Karnataka Assembly elections with a thumping majority. The party is also hopeful of a good performance in the forthcoming state elections. That proposal was also dropped.
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