INDIA bloc jolted as ‘seat-sharing saga’ unfolds: Too big a mountain to climb?

  • Earlier, it was AAP that accused Congress of cheating them and threatened to leave the INDIA tie-up if the grand-old party only wants to contest 'alone'

Chanchal
Updated23 Oct 2023
While Akhilesh Yadav wants to go by the rule book of an alliance, Congress thinks the SP shouldn’t contest where it has no base
While Akhilesh Yadav wants to go by the rule book of an alliance, Congress thinks the SP shouldn’t contest where it has no base

Cracks have started to appear in the INDIA bloc over seat sharing, sprouting questions if the alliance was only for the Lok Sabha election 2024 and whether they will contest the upcoming state elections as traditional rivals.

After Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), it is now Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) that has put Congress in a tight spot over seat-sharing in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh Assembly election, due in November 2023. While Akhilesh Yadav wants to go by the rule book of an alliance, Congress thinks the SP shouldn’t contest where it has no base.

SP vs CONGRESS IN A NUTSHELL

On Sunday, Congress announced its candidates for four seats in Madhya Pradesh, where the SP had already declared its contenders, further highlighting the emerging divisions within the alliance landscape. Akhilesh Yadav has retaliated by accusing the Congress of “cheating” his party.

“We were assured that six seats will be given to us. If we had known that there was no alliance of the INDIA bloc [of Samajwadi Party and Congress] in Madhya Pradesh for the Assembly election, then we would not have sent our people to hold discussions with Congress. If Congress continues to behave like this, then who will trust them?" asks Akhilesh Yadav.

For Congress, Madhya Pradesh is mostly a BJP vs Congress fight, and any other party, which allegedly has no hold on the ground, will largely divide the anti-BJP votes, giving an edge to them.

In response, Congress Uttar Pradesh chief Ajay Rai said the SP should support Congress if it wants to stop the BJP from winning because, in MP, the direct fight is between BJP and Congress which was evident in the 2018 Assembly election as most seats were fought and won by the two national parties.

Flashback: In 2018, Congress single-handedly won 114 seats, just one short of reaching the majority mark, and the BJP had bagged 109 constituencies. Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had then joined the front against the BJP and formed a government in Madhya Pradesh. However, Jyotiraditya Scindia’s rebellion against Kamal Nath eventually pushed the Congress-led government to its breaking point. Jyotiraditya Scindia later joined the BJP, ending his 18-year-old association with the grand-old party, his supporters followed suit, Congress lost the majority and the saffron party took over.

The primary agenda of the INDIA alliance, for which as many as 26 parties from across the country came together, was to “defeat the BJP” at the national level. For the initial meetings, the Opposition parties refrained from chalking out their seat-sharing formula.

But as the five state elections got closer, parties started to show their own aspirations – for national parties to contest individually and for regional parties to make inroads in new turfs, using the dominant status their alliance partners enjoy. Not to forget how Congress, riding on Rahul Gandhi’s popularity after Bharat Jodo Yatra, must surely be anticipating a better performance in the upcoming polls.

And why not? Leveraging Narendra Modi's prominent persona, the BJP successfully framed the Congress as a party associated with dynastic politics – the “parivarvaad” – while portraying Rahul Gandhi as a leader who lacked a professional approach.

Since the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a leader with a unique ability to connect with the younger demographic. His unwavering commitment to standing by his beliefs and the quality of his speeches has further solidified his appeal, which was evident in the last few elections Congress has contested alone and won.

HOW DOES INDIA, NDA STAND IN LOK SABHA

This is how NDA and INDIA coalition parties stand in current Lok Sabha

SP ISN’T FIRST TO QUESTION OPPN ALLIANCE, WON’T BE LAST

This wasn’t the first time Congress has faced such allegations. Earlier, it was AAP that accused Congress of cheating them and threatened to leave the INDIA tie-up if the grand-old party only wants to contest “alone”.

In another blow to Opposition unity, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has decided to stay away from the coalition of INDIA that houses their state rivals – Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, and United Democratic Front (UDF), for West Bengal and Kerala.

All this, with no response from Congress, only serves to project their leadership as lacking a spirit of teamwork.

But Akhilesh Yadav’s importance in the INDIA bloc isn’t lost. Congress leaders are currently holding talks with the SP chief. Congress’ Supriya Shrinate rightly puts, “When elections are held, tussle over tickets is a natural thing. Everyone feels that the ticket should be given to the strongest contestant.”

As of now, the challenges and dissent will persist until a consensus is reached on the seat-sharing formula. Until that moment, our reporting on “he said, she said” will continue.

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