Giving an exclusive look into what happened at the virtual meeting of the INDIA alliance on Saturday, top sources have told NDTV that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had initially proposed the name of Rahul Gandhi as chairperson of the bloc, but the Congress leader declined.
And, when his own name was proposed for the post of convenor, Mr Kumar said his colleague from Bihar, Lalu Yadav, would be a better choice because he is more senior. The convenor is a separate post in the alliance, just below that of the chairperson.
The sources said that when the discussion on the chairperson for the 28-party alliance began, the Janata Dal (United) chief proposed the name of Mr Gandhi, who declined, saying he was working at the grassroots level and his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra would also begin on Sunday. The Congress leader proposed party chief Mallikarjun Kharge’s name for the alliance’s top job, which was endorsed by Sonia Gandhi.
“The proposal was backed by several other parties and Mr Kharge’s name is nearly finalised for the post,” said a source.
Mamata Banerjee’s Objections?
CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury then proposed Nitish Kumar’s name for the post of convenor, which the Bihar chief minister was reportedly upset about not getting.
The sources said Mr Kumar, however, did not appear very interested and said RJD chief Lalu Yadav would be a better pick. When Mr Yadav said no, Rahul Gandhi brought up Mr Kumar’s name again and – on finding support from some other parties – pointed out that Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had some objections and discussions would be needed.
Refusing to reveal what the objections were, the sources said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and some Congress leaders have been deputed to speak to Ms Banerjee – who did not attend the meeting – to resolve the issue. Apart from the Trinamool Congress chief, other key allies like Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav and Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena (UBT) also gave the virtual gathering a miss.
Focus On Unity
Saturday’s meeting was held to discuss seat-sharing for the all-important Lok Sabha polls and, while not much progress was reportedly made on the issue, the parties stressed on ensuring unity at the national level and not letting rifts at the state level derail their agenda of defeating the BJP.
In a post on X, Mr Kharge said seat-sharing discussions are progressing “in a positive way” and that he and Rahul Gandhi had invited all INDIA parties to join the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.
Leaders of INDIA Coordination Commitee today met online and had a fruitful discussion on the alliance.
Everyone is happy that the seat sharing talks are progressing in a positive way.
We also discussed about joint programs in the coming days by INDIA Parties.
I, along with…
— Mallikarjun Kharge (@kharge) January 13, 2024
“Leaders of INDIA Coordination Commitee today met online and had a fruitful discussion on the alliance. Everyone is happy that the seat sharing talks are progressing in a positive way. We also discussed about joint programs in the coming days by INDIA Parties,” the Congress chief wrote.
“I, along with @RahulGandhi ji invited all INDIA Parties to join ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ at their convenience and use the opportunity to raise the social, political and economic issues plaguing common people of this country,” he added.