INDIA leaders push for quick decisions, plans ahead of 2024 polls
Leaders from 28 opposition parties in India's Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) met in Mumbai to discuss poll preparations and strategies
A sense of urgency gripped the meeting of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) in Mumbai on Thursday as leaders from 28 opposition parties attempted to hammer out strategies for poll preparations for the first time, hours after the government announced a surprise special session of Parliament in two weeks.
At the informal gathering, chief ministers Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar asked the alliance leaders to “take quick decisions” and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal suggested that seat-sharing talks must start at the state-level, said leaders aware of developments. Several leaders in the bloc also cautioned against early general elections, which is due in April-May 2024.
At the meeting, Banerjee suggested that the alliance should identify an agenda comprising five or six issues and start the poll campaign by announcing those issues from Rajghat on October 2, said the leaders cited above. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray too, advised leaders to act fast as they speculated that the elections might take place early, the leaders added.
“Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav emphasised that the seat-sharing discussions should start as there is limited time left for the crucial issue. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also echoed similar sentiments and said that the seat talks must be completed by September as there might be some difficult states where more efforts would be required,” said a leader present in the meeting, requesting anonymity.
States such as Punjab,Delhi, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh are expected to see prolonged negotiations as these states don’t have any pre-existing pacts among the opposition outfits.
The INDIA bloc held two meetings before the Mumbai summit in Patna and Bengaluru. Those meetings – held in June and July, respectively – were largely focused on bringing like-minded parties on a common platform and identifying similar ideological positions, the Mumbai meeting will be devoted to election planning, the leaders cited above said.
“The leaders also discussed setting up a number of sub-groups including one on data management and forming a coordination committee. The majority of the leaders were in favour of forming these committees in Mumbai,” said a second leader, requesting anonymity.
There was consensus among the alliance partners in the informal meeting – which was followed by dinner – that dedicated spokespersons should be appointed for the INDIA bloc. “It is now necessary to appoint spokespersons for the alliance. The parties will try to make it a broad-based group to accommodate as many spokespersons as possible from the alliance partners,” said a third leader.
The third leader also said the discussions were “fruitful” on forming a number of sub-groups to handle specific tasks. “Sub-committees are likely to be formed on planning of programmes, publicity, arrangements for public rallies and other outreach and a dedicated cell on data analysis,” said the third leader, requesting anonymity.
Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress maintain large-scale data analysis units, which play a vital role in the election preparations of the two parties. The data team of the alliance might draw the talents of many parties and also hire professionals, a non-Congress leader indicated on the condition of anonymity.
Left leaders spoke of highlighting the campaign on people’s issues such as “unemployment, price rise, agricultural distress, centre state relations and misuse of the investigative agencies”, said a Left leader.
A number of leaders present in the meeting said there was no discussion on appointing a convener. But the issue is likely to come up in the formal meeting which starts at 11am on Friday.
The Mumbai meeting is the group’s first effort at moving beyond symbolism to resolve thorny substantive issues of leadership and political strategy, and will likely see developments on electoral architecture and timeline, and unveiling of a common logo. The grouping is in power in 11 states, and won 134 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, securing 35% vote share.
(with inputs from Faisal Malik)
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