I.N.D.I.A. Alliance unity going ahead  

Date:

(Dr Pentapati Pullarao)

After losing the 2014 and 2019 parliament elections very badly, the Congress party had to find a new formula to fight Narendra Modi and BJP. The Congress realized that if it fought the 2024 election without an alliance with regional parties, then its total decline will be the result. This required a lot of political diplomacy. But the BJP made this task of opposition unity very easy by constantly attackingly regional parties of Mamata Banerjee, Kejriwal, Sharad Pawar, Shiv sena and others. The BJP attack on regional parties forced them to join with the Congress. The regional parties felt that the BJP was the biggest threat to their survival. So, the regional parties decided to join tougher to fight BJP. The India Alliance was formed in June 2023. It was for the first time that Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee and others appeared in photos with Congress leaders. Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee control the 3 states of Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal.  

Problems facing the India Alliance:

1. The first problem was who will be the leader. Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal and others did not want Rahul Gandhi to be appointed the Prime minister face of the opposition. To solve this problem, The Congress party agreed that there will be no Prime Minster face. 

2. The other big problem was seat-sharing. Mamata Banerjee had suggested a formula where in states, where the Congress only faces the BJP, (Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh ,etc ) the Congress will decide the seats. In states, where regional parties dominate (Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Tamil Nadu), Congress will only contest seats given by regional parties. This formula has been accepted by Congress. 

3. There is agreement on Common Minimum Program and manifestos, and it does not pose much of a problem.

Status today: There has been much noise in the media and sneering by the BJP that the India Alliance could not agree on seat-sharing. There were problems and delays. But after criticism in the media, the Congress party has taken fast decisions.

a. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh: The Congress and Akhilesh Yadav have come to an agreement. Akhilesh Yadav will contest 63 MPs in Uttar Pradesh and one MP in Madhya Pradesh. The Congress will contest the rest. This is a major unity success.

b. Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal and Congress have been bitter enemies since 2012. But now Kejriwal and Congress have come to an agreement. Kejriwal will contest 4 MPs and Congress 3 MPs.

c. Punjab: In Punjab, since Kejriwal and Congress got 85% of the votes in last assembly election, they agreed to contest separately, as they will win all the MPs between them. This is a good formula for Punjab.

d. Bihar and Tamil Nadu: There is no problem at all as Laloo Prasad and Congress are already allies, who have total understanding. Similarly, in Tamil Nādu, DMK and Congress are allies since many elections.

e. Maharashtra: Congress is already in alliance with Uddhav Thackeray Shiv sena and Sharad Pawar. There is total understanding between them.

f. West Bengal: In Bengal, there is some problem as Mamata has disagreements with local Congress leaders. But it is expected that Congress will settle the issue. Even with the disagreement, Mamata says she is part of the Indian Alliance.

g. Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha: The Congress will contest alone as there are no India Alliance partners in these states. Impact on Congress. Since the Parliament election of 1952, the Congress has always contested at least 450 MPs across the country. Now, the Congress will only contest 300 MPs. This is a big change, and it means the Congress will lose its party presence in such seats. The Congress will definitely lose its national geographic presence by this alliance. But the Congress a had no option all if it wanted unity with regional parties. Who will win? The Congress did manage to largely unite many opposition parties.  It is true that major parties like the BSP, KCR party, the YSR Jagan party and the Odisha Naveen Patnaik party are not part of the alliance. The important gain for the Congress is that there will be one-to-one contests in at least 400 MP seats. This is a big challenge for the BJP.  

Vote – Transfer is the key issue: Most important is the Vote-transfer ability of the Congress and its allies. This is the biggest challenge in past elections. In Uttar Pradesh, the second choice of Congress, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayavati voters was the BJP.  If the votes are not transferred, then the alliance will be a failure. In West Bengal, the voters of Mamata and the Congress and Communists are big enemies. Here also, vote transfer maybe a problem. But the India Alliance has achieved the highest possible unity. This is a major step for the opposition India Alliance. As the Chinese say: The longest journey begins with a single step”. Definitely, the India alliance has started its journey.

(Author is a political and economic analyst based at New Delhi)

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