At their third conclave in Mumbai, INDIA parties resolved to fight the 2024 Lok Sabha polls together “as far as possible”. Amid speculation of early polls, the Opposition bloc set up a 14-member coordination committee as its top decision-making body.
Top leaders of the opposition bloc held talks in an informal setting in Mumbai on Thursday evening to chart out a concrete roadmap and evolve a structure for cooperation among the alliance partners.
Before the meeting, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was seen chatting with Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders Aaditya Thackeray and Sanjay Raut and NCP’s Supriya Sule and Jayant Patil. Uddhav Thackeray and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar were also seen sharing light moments ahead of the meeting.
The Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge, former party chief Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary among others were present in the meeting.
“The meeting was good. You will know the details tomorrow,” Shiv Sena (UBT) president Uddhav Thackeray told reporters. Thackeray hosted dinner for the INDIA leaders after the meeting.
Against much anticipation, no seat-sharing formula could be finalised in Mumbai, indicating major differences among the parties. They also did not launch a logo for the alliance. Its resolution said, “Seat-sharing arrangements in different states will be initiated immediately and concluded at the earliest in a collaborative spirit of give-and-take.” The coordination committee has got the task of starting the work on seat sharing.
While a comprehensive action plan for taking on the PM Modi-led NDA government in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections has been finalized at the end of the INDIA alliance meeting on Friday, the crucial discussions on a seat-sharing formula were left to state-level committees comprising leaders of various parties, Congress sources told the media.
The Congress and a few other parties have also identified 400 parliamentary seats out of the total 543 where a one-on-one fight with the BJP is possible and will push for such contests, a senior Congress leader said.
The INDIA bloc is in no hurry to appoint a convenor, but it has been proposed that a coordination committee of 11 members be appointed, the leader said.
The INDIA bloc is likely to announce a coordination committee as well as unveil a logo for the alliance. The opposition leaders had earlier met in Patna and Bengaluru.
Not officially invited, Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal made an unexpected entry at the conclave stage, leaving some Congress leaders miffed. KC Venugopal, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, reportedly complained to Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray, the official host of the meeting, over the presence of his lawyer. Sibal, who had quit the Congress last year as he didn’t want to “hang on coattails of any party” was seen being warmly welcomed by NCP’s Supriya Sule.
In their second conclave in July in Bengaluru, the INDIA bloc’s resolution declared a national caste census as one of its demands. But in Mumbai, when JDU, SP and RJD pushed for the caste census demand, TMC opposed it.
Rahul Gandhi said PM Modi’s call of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ would never materialise just like the Britishers failed to finish off the party during their heydays. He claimed his party would replicate its win in Karnataka notched up a few months ago in poll-bound Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. “The INDIA alliance is going to defeat the BJP in national elections and the Congress party will win the polls,” he said.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge during the third INDIA meeting on Friday asked the alliance partners to be ready for more attacks from the ruling party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the coming days due to vendetta politics and said “INDIA strength is making the government nervous”.
He also targeted the BJP and the RSS for increase in hate crime in the country and also accused it of trying to keep the states under check. Addressing the INDIA bloc leaders here on second day of the meeting, Kharge said, “The success of both our meetings first in Patna and second in Bengaluru can be measured by the fact that the Prime Minister in his subsequent speeches has not just attacked INDIA but has also compared the name of our beloved country with a terrorist organisation and a symbol of slavery.”
“We should be prepared for more attacks in the coming months, more raids and arrests due to this government’s vendetta politics,” he said. The Congress leader asserted that the more ground INDIA alliance gains the more the BJP government will misuse agencies against the opposition leaders. He cited the example of the central agencies actions in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal and recent actions in the states of Jharkhand and in Chhattisgarh.
“Today every section of our society — be it the farmers, youth, women, the marginalised, middle class, public intellectuals, NGOs and even journalists — all have been at the receiving end of BJP’s authoritarian misrule and 140 crore Indians are looking towards us with hope to relieve them of their miseries,” Kharge said targeting the government.
Hitting back at the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Kharge, who is also the leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said, “The communal poison that the BJP and RSS have spread over the last nine years is now seen in hate crimes against innocent train passengers and against innocent school children. It is no surprise that when people involved in gruesome rape are released and felicitated in one part of the county, it encourages horrific crimes and parading of naked women in the other. In Modiji’s India the wife of a Kargil brave heart is also not spared.”
Kharge was referring to the recent killing of four people in train by an RPF constable, naked parading of women by a mob in Manipur, release of Bilkis Banu rape accused.
“It is the BJP govt’s apathy towards the marginalised that makes their leaders urinate on poor tribals and dalits and the culprits are left to roam freely,” he said referring to the Madhya Pradesh’s incident.
Slamming the government further, the Congress leader said that the Central government headed by the “Prime Minister wants to keep states under check. States are being denied their share of the tax revenues. MGNREGA dues to Opposition ruled states are not being given. Special grants and state specific grants are not released as per recommendation of the Finance Commission. Investors are forced to move their investments and projects out of opposition ruled states to states ruled by the BJP,” he said.
He also referred to former party president Rahul Gandhi’s press conference on Thursday questioning the Prime Minister’s silence on alleged stock manipulation by Adani Group.
“He (Rahul Gandhi) demanded a JPC probe into charges of round tripping and reports of Opaque Investment from Mauritius based Company. It is unexplainable why the Prime Minister is not getting the matter investigated?” Kharge questioned.
Kharge alleged that the BJP wants complete control on agencies and institutions — it is adamant on controlling the appointment of ED Chief, the CBI Director, Election Commissioners or even judges of courts across the country.
“Through the course of the three meetings INDIA alliance has successfully held the government accountable both within and outside Parliament as a united front. Our strength makes the government nervous and which is why it has further bulldozed important bills in Parliament, suspended our MPs on flimsy grounds, filed privilege motions against us, switched off our mikes, not allowed cameras to cover our protests and blatantly censored our speeches on Sansad TV,” he said. He also said that he would like to end on a positive note as the people of this country are our hope.
“The success of Chandrayaan 3 and our scientists from ISRO, success of sports people like Neeraj Chopra and young chess wizard Praggnanandhaa make us all proud. I want to congratulate all of them on their success for inspiring the next generation,” Kharge added.