INDIA bloc’s poll panel fails to bring together members | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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INDIA bloc’s poll panel fails to bring together members

Apr 22, 2024 04:23 AM IST

INDIA alliance formed panels for coordination & campaign management, but delays in seat-sharing & setting up secretariat led to losses & setbacks.

On September 1 last year, at its third meeting, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) formed four panels including a 14-member coordination committee which would oversee key executive tasks for the alliance.

NLeaders of the INDIA bloc at a meeting held in New Delhi last month. (HT Photo)
NLeaders of the INDIA bloc at a meeting held in New Delhi last month. (HT Photo)

The coordination panel held its first meeting 13 days later. At NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence, its members decided to start the process for determining seat-sharing. “It was decided that member parties would hold talks and decide at the earliest”, said a joint statement after the meeting attended by 12 parties. Follow full coverage of the Lok Sabha elections here.

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That would end up being the last meeting of the panel.

Talks for seat-sharing between the INDIA allies dragged on for another six months. In fact, the allies could not reach an agreement in key states of Maharashtra (48 seats) and Bihar (40 seats) till April this year.

The delay took its toll: an irked West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee snapped ties with the Congress in her state in February. She blamed the Congress for not responding to her offer that was given in the INDIA bloc’s last meeting in December 2023.

Other panels set up by the grouping haven’t fared better.

Also Read | Congress objects to PM Modi's 'jinke zyada bachhe hai' speech: 'Again Hindu-Muslim'

The 19-member campaign committee, the biggest of the bloc, also met just once—on September 6 last year.

In that meeting, the panel’s members identified cities to launch the initial campaign and decided that the common themes of the would be “unemployment, price rise, manipulation in GDP figures, how the government rapidly hiked the (cooking gas) cylinder price and then gave discount of 200 and related issues” said a member.

The panel was to meet again on September 11 to discuss the creation of a secretariat, among other things.

According to two leaders, the meeting got delayed and the proposed secretariat was never set up.

Meanwhile, the bloc lost at least two key allies—JDU and RLD — and couldn’t arrive at a seat adjustment in West Bengal, Punjab and Kerala.

Also Read | INDIA parties project unity at rally in Ranchi

In J&K, the National Conference and the Congress’s seat pact left no space for Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party.

To be sure, the allies sealed seat pacts in at least ten states and two UTs—a major achievement for such a diverse group, leaders point out. For the first time Shiv Sena (UBT) and Congress will fight a Lok Sabha poll together (in Maharashtra) and CPIM and the Congress have an informal agreement for the same(in West Bengal).

The groups’ first meeting on June 23 in Patna was all about expression of intent. In the second meeting in Bengaluru on July 17-18, the group was named INDIA and threw out a challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP. “Let us challenge the NDA. The NDA cannot challenge INDIA. Is there anyone who can challenge INDIA?” Banerjee roared.

In Bengaluru, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge announced that a coordination committee would be set up and the parties “will also set up a secretariat for campaign management in Delhi.” The secretariat is yet to be set up.

In September, the coordination committee “authorized” the media sub-group to blacklist a few television news anchors. “The decision was taken as these anchors are highlighting only the government agenda,” said another leader aware of the matter. But the efficacy of that bizarre censorship was short-lived: Months later, Congress veteran Kamal Nath gave a long interview to one of those ‘blacklisted’ anchors during the Madhya Pradesh assembly polls.

“The INDIA group had initially taken a lot of steps for a smooth coordination in the run up to the polls. But many of those plans flopped,” said a fifthleader. A sixth argued that the proposed mechanisms are irrelevant now. “We are fighting as a big group across India and that is the most important part.”

In the Mumbai meeting, the Opposition group also formed working groups on social media, media and research.

There is no confirmation if these groups have met even once. The allies have jointly held three public meetings so far.

In both Mumbai and Delhi meeting, INDIA leaders discussed coming out with a joint declaration or pledge to amplify their electoral unity on key issues before the election. A top-ranking Trinamool leader told HT, “We wanted to come out with such a declaration before the first phase of polling. But we couldn’t resolve our differences.”

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