Amidst speculations of friction between INDIA bloc members, Rahul Gandhi has said that the alliance was working towards winning the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Speaking at a press conference in Nagaland’s capital Kohima, Rahul Gandhi also said that a series of meetings over seat sharing were happening, and minor differences would easily be ironed out.
However, the past few weeks have seen the leaders jostling, with talks hitting hurdles that could well result in big speed breakers. So, what is the inside story?
JDU is sulking: There is no end to the mystery surrounding what the JDU wants. Undoubtedly, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, with his battered credibility, is being viewed suspiciously by his INDIA bloc allies. There is no other reason why ‘Sushasan Babu’ had to wait endlessly ever since the first Patna meeting, to appoint a convenor of the INDIA alliance happened. Now JDU’s patience has run out. So, finally, when it was being offered, the JDU declined the post in a face-saver attempt, stating that Nitish wasn’t after any post. The Congress is finding it hard to persuade the former to show up for seat-sharing talks and is being asked to deal with the RJD for the remaining seats.
Bengal burden: The Congress and the Trinamool’s verbal spat has resulted in an escalation of tension between the two. With Didi giving the INDIA alliance meeting a miss, things had to come to a breaking point. Sources told India Today that Rahul Gandhi had spoken to the TMC supremo in a reach out of sorts, a move which was being seen as an attempt to play down Congress state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary’s unabated attack on Mamata Banerjee. Congress is worried that the local tiff could play a dampener at the national level and the party wants to reign in its leaders, why so belatedly, is anybody’s guess.
Lack of homework: The Uttar Pradesh alliance seat-sharing formula with the Samajwadi Party is running behind schedule because, apparently, the Congress had not done its homework. Akhilesh Yadav’s party pulled a fast one on the Congress in one of the meetings, asking it to hand over a list of seats that the age-old party wanted to contest. The Congress wasn’t ready even after a few days and the meeting had to be deferred.
Being the larger player, the Samajwadi Party would ideally like to play the part of the negotiator between all stakeholders including the RLD. The latter hasn’t turned up in any of the seat-sharing meetings. So, the Samajwadi Party already has the upper hand and would want to clip the Congress’s ambitious claims in future talks.
In-house election strategist out: The Congress is still reeling under the defeat faced in the recent assembly elections in the Hindi hinterland. Insiders feel the results have turned the tables on the Congress. Apparently, the party leadership has put its in-house election strategist Sunil Kanugolu aside for the 2024 grand finale and asked him to focus on the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections coming up later in the year.
That eventually leaves the Congress without any expert poll tactician for the mega battle ahead. The poll planner was a part of the Congress Task Forces 2024 and with little time left for the polls, the party could well face a crunch of statistical input and reliable feedback on Lok Sabha seats. A leader said that the party’s progress and preparedness would naturally become a bit of slack with primary human and financial resources focused on Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra scaling the North East.