To save India alliance, Congress will have to understand the sentiments of allies.

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Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 28 major opposition parties of the country had expressed their resolve to contest the elections together by forming the India Alliance to remove the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition government from power at the Centre. Congress is the largest party in the alliance. But the strength of the regional parties included in the alliance is also no less. Regional parties are also in a strong position in their respective states. India alliance had found a strong alternative against the BJP. It seemed that this alliance could give competition to BJP in the coming time.

As the time for Lok Sabha elections approached, leaders of regional parties started talking to Congress about sharing seats. But the Congress party first kept talking about being busy in Karnataka and Himachal assembly elections. Then the matter was postponed on the pretext of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana assembly elections. Due to Congress, seats could not be distributed among the parties included in the India Alliance. However, the Congress party lost the elections in all three states except Telangana. Even after that, Congress did not take the matter forward regarding seat sharing.

Due to this, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced to contest the elections alone in the state. Mamta Banerjee wants to give only the existing two seats of Baharampur and South Malda to Congress. Whereas Congress is claiming 10 seats there. Mamta Banerjee says that Congress is very weak in West Bengal. In such a situation, only his party can defeat BJP. Therefore it will not give more than two seats to Congress. Apart from this, Mamata Banerjee does not want to make any kind of seat sharing or compromise with the leftist parties included in the India alliance. India alliance has weakened due to Mamata Banerjee’s one-sided announcement. There Congress and leftist parties will not be able to show their influence without Mamata Banerjee.

Due to lack of coordination on seats, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was the architect and main pillar of the India Alliance, has again formed the government in Bihar with the BJP. Nitish Kumar leaving India Alliance and joining NDA is not a good sign for India Alliance. After leaving the India alliance, Nitish Kumar has targeted Congress more than Rashtriya Janata Dal. Nitish Kumar says that Congress leaders want to run the alliance arbitrarily. Due to which he considered it better for JDU to leave the alliance and join BJP.

Bihar was proving to be the weakest link for BJP. In the last Lok Sabha elections, BJP had won 17 seats there. But at present BJP’s weakest position was also visible in Bihar. But due to Nitish Kumar joining BJP again, there is a possibility of BJP becoming strong once again in Bihar. Not being made the coordinator of India Alliance has also been a major reason for Nitish Kumar’s departure.

Nitish Kumar wanted him to be made the coordinator of the India alliance. But Congress had appointed the party’s national president Mallikarjun Kharge as the president of the India Alliance. Due to which Nitish Kumar was feeling angry in his heart. Nitish Kumar wanted that by becoming the convenor of India Alliance, he would become a contender for the post of Prime Minister. But Congress did not do this. Due to which he started feeling that Congress was going to make its own leaders the candidates for Prime Minister. Therefore, he thought it better to join hands with BJP.

In Uttar Pradesh too, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav has announced that his party’s candidates will contest elections on the remaining 62 seats, leaving eleven seats for Congress and seven seats for Rashtriya Lok Dal. Whereas Congress is claiming 20 seats there. Congress currently has only Rae Bareli seat in Uttar Pradesh. From where Sonia Gandhi is the MP. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress got only 6.31 percent votes there. In the last Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, Congress’s performance was very weak due to contesting alone. In the last assembly elections, Congress could get only 2.33 percent votes. If Congress contests the elections there alone then the situation will be very weak.

Congress wants to contest elections alone in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa. Whereas leaders of other parties included in the India alliance want Congress to leave some seats for its partner parties even in the states under its influence. So that their candidates can contest elections there. Aam Aadmi Party has influence in Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat and Goa. Due to which Aam Aadmi Party wants Congress to leave some seats for them in Goa and Gujarat. In return, Aam Aadmi Party can give some seats to Congress in Delhi and Punjab. But Congress wants him to contest on more seats in Punjab. Due to this, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has announced to contest the elections alone on all the 13 seats of Punjab.

In Bihar, Congress will have to compromise with Rashtriya Janata Dal, CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M) as well as other parties. Similarly, in Jharkhand, candidates of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Rashtriya Janata Dal will also contest the elections. In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar are also preparing to contest the elections today. Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi of Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar has also joined Mahavikas Aghadi. In Maharashtra, Congress should move forward in the direction of seat sharing while respecting the sentiments of the parties involved in the Aghadi.

Being the largest party in the opposition, it is the moral responsibility of the Congress to include all the small and big parties included in the India alliance and understand their sentiments and provide them a respectable status. The Indian alliance has suffered a major blow due to the unilateral announcement of Mamata Banerjee, Bhagwant Mann, Akhilesh Yadav on seat sharing and Nitish Kumar joining the NDA. In such a situation, Congress leaders should ponder over why such circumstances are being created due to which a strong leader like Nitish Kumar had to leave the India alliance. Such a situation should not arise again in future due to which any of their other allies also have to leave the alliance. The Congress party will have to take full responsibility for this matter. However, with the departure of Nitish Kumar, the process of disintegration in the India alliance has started. Only time will tell what its outcome will be.

-Ramesh Saraf Dhamora

(The author is an independent journalist accredited by the Government of Rajasthan.)

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