INDIA shook, but stirred: Congress downplays worries about “implosion” in the coalition

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Senior opposition leaders contended that Mamata’s stance might be more motivated by regional political needs than by betrayal, notwithstanding the Congress’s haste to hail her as a cornerstone of the INDIA coalition.

Top Congress officials have emphasised that terms when it comes to Lok Sabha seats will inevitably be dictated by powerful or entrenched partners in states, clearly in an attempt to deflect negative conjecture that all is not well in the INDIA coalition. The announcement by Bengal state minister Mamata Banerjee that Trinamul will run independently in the 2024 parliamentary elections should not be interpreted by the electorate or INDIA partners as a harbinger of implosion because coalition logic can occasionally be subordinated to “strategic compulsions.”

Senior opposition leaders contended that Mamata’s stance might be more motivated by regional political needs than by betrayal, notwithstanding the Congress’s haste to hail her as a cornerstone of the INDIA coalition. In the greater interest of providing the BJP with a stronger fight in Bengal, a three-cornered election is not wholly unwanted, since there is an opinion that the BJP may win if the Congress-Left relinquished the anti-Mamata arena.

While Mamata was not willing to accommodate the Left, it is also true that the Congress is not ready to accept the two seats that Trinamul is offering of a total of 42 in the state. At the same time, Congress and other alliance leaders continue to consider Mamata an intrinsic part of INDIA, notwithstanding her announcement to go it alone. “Every state will have a different model,” NCP leader Supriya Sule said, fondly describing Mamata as “Didi who is loved by all”.

A similar predicament has arisen in Punjab, where the central leaderships of the AAP and the Congress are aware of the potentially negative outcomes of the main Opposition and ruling parties uniting to contest elections and turning the election into a straight fight with the BJP rather than a multi-front one. The BJP or the Akali Dal, who might defect to the BJP after the elections, shouldn’t be allowed to control the entire opposition area, even though the state units of both parties are unwilling to give up even a small ground.

According to the assessment, the AAP and the Congress polarised the state and the BJP is unlikely to win even one seat in Punjab. While AAP and Congress would share seats in Delhi according to a four-three formula, they are expected to engage in a fierce war in Punjab. Bhagwant Mann, the chief minister, said on Wednesday that APP will win all 13 of the state’s seats and that he was refused to give any seats to the Congress.

Ahead of a crucial national election, the confusing and jumbled seat-sharing table presents a bad image, but INDIA leaders claim there is “tactical logic” to some of the decisions, which seem to indicate a split of seats among INDIA partners.

Bihar worry

The real worry comes from Bihar, where political talk is dominated by rumours that chief minister Nitish Kumar is planning yet another comeback. In official discussions, RJD and Congress leaders refute any such possibility; nevertheless, in private meetings, they adopt a different tone. No one can truly rule out the possibility of a sudden crisis arising in Bihar due to Nitish’s next political blunder.

To the extent of telling The Telegraph, one INDIA leader said, “We will be surprised if Nitish Kumar doesn’t go back to the BJP.” Clearly, he came to this side hoping to become prime minister. However, there were many who opposed his appointment as the INDIA group’s convenor. Subsequently, Mallikarjun Kharge assumed leadership of the group. Regardless of his or the RJD’s public posturing, Nitish is now pessimistic about his chances of succeeding in the opposition camp, and his relationships with them are also constantly tense.

JDU spokesperson and Nitish confidant K.C. Tyagi’s tone has abruptly shifted; he has been criticising the Congress on a number of issues and has even hinted at his discontent with the way Nitish has being handled in INDIA. While many Opposition parties harbour misgivings about Nitish due to his past support of the BJP and his history of switching sides without any moral or ideological hesitations, the JDU feels that Nitish was the driving force behind the conception and development of India and that other parties, especially the Congress, did not give him enough credit for that.

While discussions over seat sharing are moving along amicably in states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, there are issues in Uttar Pradesh as well. Although the Congress is keen to include Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party is against the notion. The Congress feels that the BSP is necessary to defeat the BJP, which has more than 50% of the vote, but significant attempts to win over Mayawati to INDIA have not been done thus far.

“There is a conspiracy by some leaders of SP and Congress to scuttle Mayawati’s induction into INDIA,” a Congress leader declared. Right now, Rahul Gandhi is on his Nyay Yatra, and Sonia Gandhi is the only one who can find a solution. The BJP can still win 60–70 seats in the state if the BSP competes independently. The BJP’s total may drop by 20–30 seats if the BSP enters the alliance. None of the leading Indian leaders are putting any real effort into winning that crucial battleground.

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