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I.N.D.I.A. Coalition: All’s Fair in Love, War and Elections Against PM Modi

It's to be seen how opponents negotiate their way through a minefield of competing political interests to oust BJP.

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The easy part is over. After three meetings spread over two months, the Opposition has armed itself with a name, a slogan, and a 14-member coordination committee to take on the Modi juggernaut in 2024.

The challenge begins now as member parties get down to the tricky business of discussing seat-sharing with the aim of pitting one I.N.D.I.A. candidate against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in as many of the 543 Lok Sabha seats as possible.

An indication of the enormity of the task ahead and the strains it could introduce within the alliance came in the form of a caveat to the declaration of a unified fight. The parties announced that they will contest next year’s Lok Sabha polls together "as far as possible’’.

In other words, there may be areas where two or more I.N.D.I.A candidates could be competing against each other but also fighting the BJP.
Snapshot
  • The challenge begins now as member parties get down to the tricky business of discussing seat-sharing with the aim of pitting one I.N.D.I.A. candidate against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

  • A jarring note in Mumbai was the tension that surfaced between Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

  • It remains to be seen how erstwhile opponents negotiate their way through a minefield of competing political interests complicated by the compulsion to defeat the BJP before it devours them.

  • It is obvious that there will be pulls and pressures as the seat-sharing talks take off. However, local tensions will have to be balanced with a larger national view.

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Discrepancies During the Mumbai Meeting

There are five problem states: West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Delhi. All five have strong regional players who are traditional rivals of the Congress.

It remains to be seen how erstwhile opponents negotiate their way through a minefield of competing political interests complicated by the compulsion to defeat the BJP before it devours them.
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A jarring note in Mumbai was the tension that surfaced between Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the Congress. Banerjee’s nephew and heir apparent Abhishek Banerjee had a 6 am breakfast meeting with Rahul Gandhi on the second day of the conclave.

Apparently, the aim of the meeting was to kick-start seat-sharing discussions. According to information that has trickled out after the meeting, the talks did not go well. Banerjee was demanding and Gandhi was noncommittal.

Annoyed by what she considers the Congress party’s recalcitrance, Mamata Banerjee was irritable at the formal talks that followed later in the day. She objected to the slogan "Judega Bharat, Jeetega India’’. She said a firm NO to including references to a caste census in the political resolution.

A compromise was struck. The slogan was adopted but there was no political resolution. She left for Kolkata along with her nephew and party spokesperson Derek O’ Brien before the joint press conference in the evening.

Interestingly, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, who too has issues with sharing seats with the Congress in Punjab and Delhi, stayed back and addressed the press conference with a strong avowal of unity.
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One reason for his more mellow attitude could be the pressure that he is under with the Modi government stripping him of most of his powers in Delhi through an ordinance which was turned into a law in the just concluded monsoon session.

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‘A Fight for Survival’

UP is another state that could prove to be a headache unless leaders of the Congress, Samajwadi Party, and RLD set aside their egos and agree to accommodate each other in the larger interest of putting up a united fight against the BJP.

The state will be crucial because it sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha and it is a BJP stronghold which boasts of a charismatic local leader like Yogi Adityanath.

Fortunately for I.N.D.I.A., in two other key states, Bihar and Maharashtra which together account for 88 Lok Sabha seats, an Opposition alliance is already in place. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning the seat adjustment ratio.

It is obvious that there will be pulls and pressures as the seat-sharing talks take off. However, local tensions will have to be balanced with a larger national view.
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Most opposition parties face the threat of possible extinction if the BJP returns for a third term. Consequently, the fight against Modi is a fight for survival.

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How BJP’s Defences Builds the Case for Opposition Unity

Ironically, the BJP only seems to be helping the cause of Opposition unity with its continuous barbs and attacks. As soon as the I.N.D.I.A joint presser ended in Mumbai, and the BJP went on air to lambast the alliance and mock the meeting, bhakts were on TV and social media with taunts about Mamata Banerjee’s temperamental behaviour and her absence from the joint press conference.

The BJP’s responses have a two-fold impact on I.N.D.I.A. Firstly, Opposition leaders feel that they are doing something right because I.N.D.I.A. seems to have got under the ruling party’s skin. Secondly, the sledgehammer approach strengthens the resolve to stay united.
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As Rahul Gandhi and Lalu Yadav said at the press conference in Mumbai, unity is necessary to defeat the BJP and all parties will make whatever sacrifices are necessary to achieve this goal.

The message from Mumbai was that I.N.D.I.A. is still a work in progress. There are mountains to climb and obstacles to tackle before the Opposition alliance takes the shape of a viable and attractive alternative for the voter.

(Arati R Jerath is a Delhi-based senior journalist. She tweets @AratiJ. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  TMC   Opposition Unity   INDIA alliance 

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