Leaders of at least 26 opposition parties, under the umbrella of the INDIA alliance, on Thursday held talks in Mumbai to chart out a concrete roadmap and evolve a structure for cooperation among the alliance partners to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
All top opposition leaders including Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Uddhav Thackeray, and Arvind Kejriwal among others were present at the “informal” huddle at Grand Hyatt hotel here. Key decisions about the alliance’s future strategy will be taken at the formal meeting on Friday. Thackeray hosted a dinner for the INDIA leaders after the meeting.
This is the third meeting of the opposition’s alliance. The first meeting of the bloc was held in June in Patna, while the second gathering in Bengaluru in July finalised its name — Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).
INDIA leaders will meet again on Friday. Uddhav Thackeray said INDIA alliance parties will hold a press conference on Friday.
What INDIA Leaders Discussed?
According to CNN-News18 sources, names of INDIA convenor and committees will be finalised at Friday huddle. The opposition leaders discussed why the government called a five-day special session of Parliament. They deliberated on whether the government is planning to club Lok Sabha and state assembly polls and that the alliance should be prepared for it.
“The parties also decided that some seats must be earmarked and whether parties should have common rallies. At the meeting, the Samajwadi party highlighted the importance of Uttar Pradesh in the polls and discussed the use of central agencies. Names of convenor and committees will be finalise tomorrow,” said sources.
INDIA Seat Sharing Formula for 2024
Sources also told CNN-News18 that leaders discussed the need for surveys to be conducted at the regional level. They said the initial discussion (at Friday’s meeting) will be on regional seat distribution. Sources said discussion for Lok Sabha seat sharing should be done at the local level as per local combinations and strengths.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal said seat sharing between INDIA alliance parties will take place across the country.
What INDIA Leaders Said?
National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah said there should be a Convener and a Working Group. “We can’t hold a meeting every two months like this. I think if meetings are held more regularly by forming a Working Group, it will definitely be effective,” he said.
When asked who will be the PM face of INDIA alliance, Abdullah said, “If you ask me, I don’t think we need to announce any Prime Ministerial face. Let the elections take place, let us get a majority – the decision will be made after that.”
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi Opposition will formulate a strategy in the Mumbai meet which will help them win in 2024 polls. “It’s a historic day and a new history is being created today… We will work and will formulate a strategy which will help us to win in 2024…,” Chaturvedi said.
Talking about the INDIA alliance meeting, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray said that the prime ministerial face of the alliance will be decided later.
Former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav said the need of the hour is to strengthen the unity and sovereignty of the country and protect the Constitution and democracy.
“The Modi government has failed to address the issues of poverty, unemployment and welfare of farmers. At the INDIA alliance meet, we will work on evolving a common programme. We have to contest elections one-on-one (put up common candidates against the BJP),” the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader said.
Yadav’s son and deputy chief minister of Bihar Tejashwi Yadav said the Maha Gathbandhan came to power in Bihar last August and Lalu Prasad Yadav and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar decided to work on getting all like-minded parties on board for a larger Opposition alliance.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti said the youth were the strength of the country. “Leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh worked to give direction to the youth and set up institutions like JNU, IIMs, ISRO,” she said.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said the formation of the INDIA alliance is aimed at saving the country.
“The country’s federal structure is under threat. States which don’t give a mandate to them (BJP) are being harassed. Alliance is not to increase or decrease the number of seats but to save the country,” he said.
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren said parties taking part in the meeting will deliberate on their views about the country, its democracy and the Constitution.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Raghav Chadha said the BJP fears the INDIA alliance.
“They have hatred for the word INDIA and are even linking the name to a terror outfit. It is not just hatred but also fear about (what) if the alliance succeeds,” he said.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray said the INDIA alliance leaders have come together to protect democracy and the Constitution.
RJD leader Manoj Jha said the alliance is working to unite the country. It is not just a coalition of parties but that of ideas, he said.
The country needs healing, and this coalition is for rebuilding the nation and showing mirror to the ruling party, Jha added.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said people’s response to INDIA has unnerved the prime minister and the BJP.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) working president Supriya Sule said the INDIA alliance faces the challenge of repairing the damage done by the policies of the Narendra Modi government which has resulted in inflation and unemployment.
“The BJP has a problem with the name of our alliance. It means we are doing well,” she said.
(With PTI inputs)