January 15, 2024
NEW DELHI – How strenuous is the seat- sharing exercise for the India alliance, and can the Opposition overcome its challenges before the polls?
The main objective is to find a mutually acceptable formula that sat- isfies all 26 partners. The coalition has decided to field a single candidate against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to avoid splitting the opposition vote.
The Congress is currently in dis- cussion with its partners in the alliance to finalise seat-sharing arrangements for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. While forming part- nerships before the polls is relatively easy, the real challenge lies in agreeing on seats and choosing a suitable leader for the Opposition bloc.
However, the Congress, the lead negotiator of the coalition, finds itself in a difficult position as most regional parties are bargaining hard for more seats, which could only come at the cost of the Congress party’s interests. The party president, Mallikarjun Kharge, has instructed the party to ini- tiate talks with other leaders in the alliance to address this dilemma.
The Congress has formed pre- poll alliances with different political parties across several states. It has partnerships with DMK in Tamil Nadu, RJD and JD (U) in Bihar, and JMM in Jharkhand. However, the party has not formed alliances with major political parties in crucial states like Assam. The Congress is currently try- ing to strike a balance between fulfill- ing its own needs as well as those of allies. While Congress leaders are will- ing to make compromises, there are varying opinions among local Con- gress units in different states. To address this issue, Kharge has directed the party’s alliance committee to put in extra efforts to accommodate allies.
He has also reached out to opposition leaders to coordinate with the India bloc. The party faces the challenge of maintaining positive relationships with its regional partners. The Con- gress is prepared to compete against the BJP in 13 states in direct fights. It will contest against non-BJP parties in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha and Telangana. The Congress will share space with the CPI (M) in West Bengal and Tripura.The Opposition faces problems in the states of Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, and Punjab. In the past, Congress held significant political power in Delhi and Punjab.
However, the Aam Aadmi Party has emerged as a strong contender against its domi- nance, as it holds power in both states. There is bitter rivalry between AAP and Congress. Similarly, the Samajwa- di Party in UP, the RJD and JD (U) in Bihar, the National Conference and PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, and the DMK in Tamil Nadu are expected to have the upper hand. The Chief Min- ister of West Bengal, Mamata Baner- jee, will be in control of her state. Meanwhile, in Jharkhand, the Con- gress, JMM and RJD are each aiming to secure a larger share of seats than their partners in the India bloc. Con- gress contested 421 seats during the 2019 elections but managed to win only 52. They formed alliances in some states and competed for a few seats; in others, they contested for more seats. For example, they con- tested only nine seats in Bihar, seven in Jharkhand, 21 in Karnataka, 25 in Maharashtra, and nine in Tamil Nadu. However, they challenged in 70 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh. Congress has less chance of defeating the BJP on its own. The party will not compete for the 272 seats required to form the government independently. They will compete for 250 seats, the lowest ever, and their best-case scenario is to win 125 seats. As a key player, the Con- gress should focus on directly chal- lenging the BJP in over 190 seats, with strong leaders contesting from con- stituencies.The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, has also sparked controver- sy. K.C. Tyagi, leader of JD (U), ques- tioned why the Congress did not make it a joint yatra with opposition bloc partners. Although Congress invited its partners, how they will respond is still uncertain.The Opposition is in a difficult situation regarding the inau- guration of the Ram Temple. While Congress was internally divided on the matter, they ultimately declined the invitation. The CPI (M) leader, Sitaram Yechury, also politely declined the invitation. As the event is a politi- cal spectacle for the BJP, attending it would only support their narrative.
The opposition coalition has decided to boycott the event.Although poll surveys have predicted that Prime Minister Modi will win the upcoming election, the Opposition still has a chance if it remains united. The oppo- sition parties should take inspiration from successful coalitions like the Janata Party, United Front, and National Front.
To succeed, the Opposition must effectively communicate the failures of the Modi government to the peo- ple and adopt a new approach in the Hindi belt where the BJP is strong. But it will be a challenging task.