INDIA vows to fight 2024 polls together, names coordinators
The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) has announced talks on seat-sharing arrangements and key panels as it prepares for the 2024 elections. The alliance, comprised of 28 parties, aims to campaign together and tackle issues such as unemployment and price rise. However, thorny issues remain, and the alliance has not yet named a convener. The INDIA group hopes to unveil its vision and alternative policies on Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary on October 2.
Mumbai The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) switched to election mode on Friday, announcing talks on seat-sharing arrangements, key panels, and a public campaign next month, as it attempted to wrest back the political momentum from the government that has set off furious speculation with the surprise declaration of a special session of Parliament in the third week of September.
A day after the government’s decision of the September 18-22 session sparked buzz of a legislative move on simultaneous state and national elections, women’s reservation or big-bang announcements, the INDIA group tried to get battle-ready, forming five panels including a 14-member coordination and election strategy committee, and deciding to campaign together for the 2024 elections.
But thorny issues loomed large over the 28-party bloc, which didn’t name a convener or unveil a logo — an issue that triggered some disquiet among key constituents, and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee leaving the meeting early sparked speculation though the TMC later said it was just a scheduling issue.
The election campaign might start from Rajghat on October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, with the bloc unveiling its vision on issues such as unemployment, price rise and Centre-state relations, and announce a plan on alternative policies, a member said.
The meeting of the group in Mumbai marked its most productive gathering so far, and a shift away from the ideological issues discussed in earlier events in Patna and Bengaluru, to a road map focused on the next general elections. But several leaders underlined the sense of urgency, saying elections could happen anytime soon — months ahead of schedule — and that INDIA needed to remain alert.
“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,” said a resolution passed at the meeting.
The bloc also decided to coordinate among members on political communication and media strategies under the campaign theme “Judega Bharat, Jitega India” in different languages. “Parties will organise public rallies at the earliest in different parts of the country on issues of public concern and importance,” it added.
Though crucial questions of seat-sharing arrangements and leadership remained unresolved, leaders reminded each other of the need to pick the maximum number of common candidates, remain alert to threats to their unity, and show flexibility as seat pacts and smooth coordination are decisive factors for the group.
The meeting, however, saw some arguments between West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar when the latter suggested that the bloc’s commitment for a caste census should be highlighted. Banerjee argued that the poll committee should discuss such issues and said she won’t support any attempt to link census with religious issues.
“We were not together earlier. We could not put common candidates in each seat and (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi took the advantage… We have arrived at a conclusion and an organisation has been formed. We will start the seat sharing arrangements by accommodating everyone. There will be no hurdle,” former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad said.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he was “impressed” at the way differences were “ironed out” in the meeting.
“We will propose a clear set of ideas to benefit farmers and poor people. The real work in this alliance is the relationship forged between the leaders. I can say the two meetings have helped immensely to build a rapport and we work as one team. There are differences but I can see flexibilities,” he said.
In the meeting, leaders agreed to draft the resolution on seat arrangement to reflect the sense of urgency as shown by AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal and a number of leaders. Later, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury supported Banerjee’s proposal to make bullet points of the agenda.
Still, the differences were palpable and prevented the group from naming a convener.
The coordination and election strategy committee comprised three former chief ministers — Sharad Pawar, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren and Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav. Congress leader KC Venugopal, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s TR Baalu, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, Trinamool Congress’s second in-command Abhishek Banerjee, AAP Rajya Sabha member Raghav Chadha, Samajwadi Party leader Javed Ali Khan, Janata Dal (United) leader Lallan Singh, and Communist Party of India general secretary D Raja were the other members. The Communist Party of India-Marxist will also have a seat, but its nominee was not announced.
“We have put an infrastructure in place. We have committed ourselves to seat sharing. We will unveil our policies on October 2 and start the campaign,” said G Devarajan of the Forward Bloc.
A 19-member campaign committee, a 12-member working group for social media, a 19-member working group on media and a 11-member working group on research were also formed. The Congress wants the next meeting of the group to be held in Bhopal, said people aware of developments.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who declined any post in the meeting, spelled out the priorities for the alliance. “We will campaign across the states regularly… But now there is no guarantee on what might happen. Election can happen anytime. We have to remain alert,” he said.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and other leaders hit out at Modi and the ruling dispensation, criticising the government’s recent decision to reduce cooking gas price by ₹200.
“Modi always hikes ₹100 and then reduce only ₹2. Petrol and LPG prices have doubled but he has only cut rate by ₹200. Modi never works for poor because his policy has always been to work closely with big industrialists,” Kharge said.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who insisted at the informal meeting on Wednesday that seat talks must be completed by September, said, “INDIA alliance is not about 28 parties, this is alliance of 140 crore people.” He also cautioned that “Big forces are trying to break INDIA. It will be forcibly shown that we are fighting against each other. No one fought with the other. No one has come for any post.”