How Kharge & Others Reacted When His Name Was Proposed As PM Face At INDIA Meet

Mallikarjun Kharge's name was proposed as a potential PM face for the INDIA bloc at the meeting on Tuesday.

4 min read

The INDIA bloc’s meeting on Tuesday, 19 December began with a set of very resolute Opposition leaders discussing the protest strategies against the suspension of over 100 MPs, and ended with a rather clear hint of how the alliance is shaping up and who is being pitched as its face, and by extension, who is being sidelined.

Leaders of as many as 28 political parties met in New Delhi to take the alliance talks forward. The meeting began just hours after another set of MPs were suspended from parliament, taking the total count of suspended MPs to 151. Many opposition leaders have criticised this calling it the 'death of democracy', and the series of suspensions has evidently acted as a catalyst bringing the opposition parties further together. Bigger questions on seat-sharing still remained unanswered, but certain comments passed at the talk can shed light on how some of the big party leaders are thinking about the alliance.


Doubling Down On Protests Against Suspensions

Opposition leaders like CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav dove headfirst in the meeting with the suggestion that Opposition parties need to up the ante in their protests against the suspensions.

“The idea suggested was to take the protests out of the parliament premises and onto the streets. So that the masses know that this isn’t like any other regular suspension, but an unprecedented action,” a leader in the know said.

Yechury suggested that a date should be set when all the party leaders can hit the street in protest. After some back and forth, 22 December was agreed upon as the date. Parties will be expected the mobilise their ground workers to work in unison.

In the morning, opposition leaders had occupied the staircase of the parliament to register their protest against the suspension.

Mallikarjun Kharge's name was proposed as a potential PM face for the INDIA bloc at the meeting on Tuesday.

New Delhi: Suspended Opposition MPs protest during the Winter session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023.

(Photo: PTI)

Seat Sharing and the 'National Alliance Committee'

The conversation then moved to the topic of seat-sharing, something that has so far been touched upon only superficially in the INDIA meetings. Ahead of the meeting, the Congress party released the names in a newly formed ‘National Alliance Committee’, constituted with the aim of leading inter-party conversations with regards to seat sharing.

The committee members include former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, former Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, leaders Mukul Wasnik, Salman Khurshid and Mohan Prakash. At the meeting, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge reiterated these names, and explained to the other parties’ leaders that it is these members who will primarily coordinate with their respective members regarding the seat-sharing.


AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann, both stressed upon the need to get the seat-sharing conversations started right away. “Kejriwal was of the view that discussing the nitty gritties will take a lot of time and negotiating is never an easy task, so should be started immediately. KC Venugopal reassured him and the seat sharing arrangements will begin to be discussed in the coming week,” a leader said. Moreover, Venugopal further told the leaders that they intend to meet all INDIA partners “at least 8-10 times ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.”

Notably, none of the parties brought up Congress’ losses in the state elections. While these losses were seen as what could potentially open room for the other parties to assert themselves over Congress, the recent suspensions seem to have left no scope for any upmanship. “Much of the meeting was just focused on boosting each other’s morale after the series of suspensions. Every party leader was so taken aback by how brazen this government is being. In such a scenario, no one wants to initiate any conversation that could lead to any animosity, like election losses. The focus was on building on this unity against the government,” another leader said.

How Kharge Shut Down The 'PM Face' Conversation

Amid all of this, towards the latter half of the meeting, the question whether the alliance should have one face or not came up. Immediately, West Bengal CM and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee said that it would be good to have a Dalit leader be positioned as the alliance’s PM face. She then gestured towards Kharge. Kejriwal joined in agreement to this.

But before this conversation could be taken further, Kharge shut it down, saying that it is too premature. “He wanted to nip it in the bud. But it was evident that there is a lot of goodwill that Kharge enjoys within the alliance,” a source said.

Sources also said that by taking Kharge’s name, the idea is to effectively sideline the name of Rahul Gandhi as the PM face of the alliance. “Most leaders would not want Rahul Gandhi to be the PM face, as it directly undermines their own authority and seniority. Kharge is a senior name, so it is different,” the source added.

After the meeting, speaking to the media, Kharge emphatically rejected the idea that the INDIA bloc has decided a PM face. “Our first priority is to win the elections. We will think about winning before deciding the name of the Prime Minister. If there will be no MPs, it makes no sense talking about the Prime Minister. We will work unitedly to win a majority first,” Kharge said.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and politics

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More