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Despite Congress election losses, allies say INDIA bloc has fair chance in 2024 elections

‘It is unquestionably a major setback for the Congress and its allies in India. However, it will give the regional parties in the group more room to maneuver and won’t destroy the alliance.’

 

– Abdul Bari Masoud

Following the assembly election setback, the Congress intended to hastily convene a meeting of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) on December 6. However, this plan was derailed when three chief ministers and one former chief minister declined to attend the event, raising concerns about the alliance’s future.

According to those with knowledge of the situation, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, his Jharkhand counterpart Hemant Soren, and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee informed the Congress that they would not be able to attend the meeting. Akhilesh Yadav, the head of the Samajwadi Party, also announced that he would not be attending the meeting on December 6, saying he would probably send another party leader in his place.

Later, Lalu Prasad, RJD chief, told reporters that the meeting would take place on December 17. This announcement was made in the context of the Congress’s electoral defeat in three heartland states and the discontent among the INDIA allies over the impasse in seat-sharing negotiations.

Later in the day, the Congress announced that parliamentary party leaders from the 28-party coalition will instead meet on December 6 for a coordination meeting.

The development was confirmed by a senior non-Congress leader. He said leading members of the alliance were reluctant to attend the December 6 meeting because of the Congress’s defeat in three north Indian states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh – where it was directly opposed to the BJP.

Several regional parties intend to push for seat adjustments as soon as possible, according to another leader.

The Congress refused to have any informal agreements in the three states and had delayed seat-sharing negotiations in hopes of winning the assembly elections, which would have given it an advantage in any negotiations. The Congress lost power in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and was unable to unseat the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, suggesting that their strategy had backfired.

Even though the Congress prevailed in Telangana, its appalling head-to-head record against the BJP effectively relegated it to southern India and hindered its ability to mount a credible challenge in north India.

Certain opposition leaders maintained that it was premature to write off the India bloc, despite the apparent tension that persisted between the allies.

It is unquestionably a major setback for the Congress and its allies in India. However, it will give the regional parties in the group more room to maneuver and won’t destroy the alliance, according to a southern Indian leader who asked to remain anonymous.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attributed the Congress’s defeats to the absence of seat-sharing agreements. She called the drubbing a defeat for the Congress and not a disaster for the larger opposition.

Bihar minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary blamed the Congress for neglecting regional parties. Congress should take a lesson from the mess in three states, Choudhary said, adding that there was not much time left. There should be no more delays in state-to-state seat sharing, he continued. According to Choudhary, “Nitish Kumar’s model is of a united fight, and if that happens, a win is not improbable.”

After a public fallout with the Congress, Akhilesh Yadav’s party fielded candidates in Madhya Pradesh. He said he was not disappointed with the assembly election results and added that it would not affect their chances in 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

JD (U) leader KC Tyagi said, “The Congress will have to show a big heart. In key states such as Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu, it will have to offer the reins to stronger regional parties.”

“Congress should not be overconfident to the extent of ignoring regional parties, as it will be counterproductive,” Tyagi warned.

He advocated for keeping the door open for post-election alliances with parties like YSR Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal (BJD). “The Congress has to realize that regional parties are more powerful in many states,” he said.

Nitish Kumar earlier criticized the Congress for focusing too much on the elections in five states while ignoring the INDIA bloc. After the polls in the three heartland states were reversed, the JD(U) blasted the Congress for neglecting regional parties.

Rejecting rumors of discord within the group, Kumar stated, “There were rumors that I wouldn’t be at the meeting (of the India Alliance). This is untrue; I was having a fever at the time. I would surely attend the next meeting, whenever it was scheduled.”

Akhilesh Yadav, who had pulled no punches on Congress over seat-sharing in Madhya Pradesh polls, stated, “The results of the recently concluded polls would only strengthen and consolidate the INDIA alliance,” while speaking at an event hosted by a television news channel in Lucknow. The general public has been eager for the change. If the Congress had not acted in that manner in that state, there would have been a change in power.

Additionally, it has been suggested that the party didn’t give enough consideration to the problem of EVM hacking and tampering. There were thousands of rigging complaints in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Last but not the least, some claimed that the Congress’s organizational structure was unable to outwit the BJP’s apparatus because it was riddled with factionalism, had inadequate coordination between its national and state branches, lacked a booth-level presence, underpowered its grassroots workers, and distributed tickets incorrectly.

Meanwhile, while briefing reporters, the AICC general secretary in-charge of the Communications Department, Jairam Ramesh, said the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had called an informal meeting of the INDIA parties on December 6.

On the elections, Ramesh said that while the assembly election results were disappointing despite the victory in Telangana, the Congress party was not dispirited or dejected. He said, “No doubt, the results were disappointing and much below the expectations of the party, but the party will continue to fight. He said the results have further strengthened the party’s resolve to fight. “We will fight with all earnestness, vigor, and determination,” he remarked.

The Congress’s poor performance puts its standing in the opposition alliance in jeopardy. The party had expected to be a key player in the dynamics of the alliance, but these election results point to a change in the political landscape. It is now less likely that other parties, like the SP, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and Trinamool Congress (TMC), will give the Congress the prominent position it had hoped for.

After the election results, the BJP and its cohorts started “hat-trick” propaganda. Debunking it with statistics, noted psephologist Yogendra Yada said, “This is how psychological games are played and won. Inflate a small balloon of truth so big that every contradictory truth is hidden behind it. The BJP, which is blowing the trumpet of victory, has a total of 4,81,33,463 votes, whereas the Congress, which was “defeated” in the elections, has got 4,90,77907 votes. That means, overall, the Congress has gotten about 9.5 lakh more votes than the BJP.”

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