The Congress has rescheduled the December 6 meeting of Indian National Development inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc. Now, the meeting will be held in the third week of the month. Many big leaders expressed their inability to attend the meeting of the alliance convened by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. It has indicated widening cracks in INDIA bloc after BJP’s win in assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh.
Adding to the discomfiture of the party were statements by senior MP leaders Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh floating an EVM-tampering conspiracy theory for the Congress defeat in the state.
Even while the counting of votes for the Assembly elections were underway Sunday, the Congress had let it known that it had convened a meeting of the INDIA bloc on December 6. The news took many leaders of the alliance by surprise since they had no information about the meeting.
Citing prior commitments, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Monday she was not in a position to attend the meeting. “I was not aware of the meeting date on December 6. Had I known about the meeting date beforehand, then I could have rescheduled my visit,” she said. On Tuesday, sources in the JD(U) said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too was likely to skip the meeting as he had viral fever. They said JD(U) national president Lalan Singh and state minister Sanjay Kumar Jha may represent the party.
Separately, the SP said its chief Akhilesh Yadav had no plans to attend the meeting. A spokesperson for the SP said party leader Ram Gopal Yadav or any other leader authorised by the national president would go for the meeting.
DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin had already conveyed to the Congress leadership that he would not attend the meeting as his government was engaged in coordinating relief efforts in the wake of Cyclone Michaung.
Sensing the mood of its partners, an embarrassed Congress scaled down the meeting to a gathering of floor leaders in Parliament. It said the meeting of heads of parties would now be held in the third week of December. Instead, a meeting of floor leaders of the INDIA constituents in Parliament will take place at Kharge’s residence on December 6.
Gurdeep Sappal, Congress Working Committee (CWC) member and coordinator of the Congress president’s office, said on X: “A coordination meeting of parliamentary party leaders of INDIA alliance will be held at 6 pm on December 6 at the residence of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.” “Thereafter, a meeting of party presidents/heads of the INDIA alliance will be scheduled in the third week of December at a date convenient to all,” Sappal, who is also a member of the campaign committee of the alliance, said.
Most of the leading parties of the INDIA alliance, especially the TMC, AAP and the JD(U) are upset with the Congress for stalling the activities of the INDIA bloc, including seat-sharing talks, citing the Assembly elections.
Most of them believe the INDIA bloc lost the political momentum it had gained after its formation and back-to-back meetings in Patna, Bengaluru and Mumbai because of the break.
he Congress lost the polls, in part, due to the lack of a seat-sharing arrangements with other INDIA members, Banerjee said on Monday, stressing that it was a “defeat of the Congress, not the people.”
“The Congress has won Telangana. They would have won Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Some votes were cut by INDIA parties. This is the truth. We had suggested a seat-sharing arrangement. They lost because of the division of votes,” Banerjee said in an address to the Assembly in Kolkata.
“Along with ideology, you need to have a strategy,” she said, adding: “If there is a seat-sharing arrangement, the BJP will not come to power in 2024.”
In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress was in talks with Akhilesh Yadav’s party, but the talks fell apart over seat-sharing. At one point, Kamal Nath, who was leading the Congress’ campaign, dismissed a media query on the alliance talks, saying: “Chhoro Akhilesh Vakhilesh.”
Janata Dal (United)’s K.C. Tyagi said, the Congress “ignored other INDIA parties, but was unable to win on its own”. Kerala Chief Minister and CPI(M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan said it was necessary to fight together while taking on the BJP in the Hindi heartland.
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut said the outcome of the Madhya Pradesh polls would have been different had the Congress shared some seats with other constituents of the INDIA bloc.
National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said: “All will have to be accommodated and we will have to move forward.” Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Manoj Jha also said the results will not impact the alliance. “These were state polls. These should be left behind. National elections will be held on different issues. It (Assembly poll results) will not have any impact, everyone will have to understand the unity of the INDIA bloc… There is no contradiction,” he said.
The Congress strategy group also met at the residence of CPP chairperson Sonia Gandhi to chalk out the party’s strategy during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament.