The INDIA bloc’s coordination committee is set to have its first meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday to set the alliance’s plan for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in motion. In the meeting, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) is expected to deliberate on the seat-sharing formula among members along with evolving a broad outlay of campaign strategy ahead of the upcoming polls.

Discussing Opposition Concerns

During the meeting of the 14-member all-important panel of the opposition at the NCP leader Sharad Pawar’s Delhi residence this evening, the bloc could also discuss the government’s ‘witch hunt’ of Opposition leaders by ‘using probe agencies,’ according to sources.

The CPIM has not yet nominated any member to the committee and will be absent at the meeting. Party sources said a decision on who will represent CPIM will be taken at its politburo meeting scheduled on September 16-17.

Abhishek Banerjee’s Absence

Trinamool Congress General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee will skip the bloc’s meeting today as he has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to appear before its officers today in connection with the alleged school jobs scam. In solidarity with Banerjee and to make a point about the ‘witch hunt,’ TMC has decided not to send anyone to the meeting in Banerjee’s place, sources said. “In fact, the Abhishek Bannerjee issue and arrest of Chandrababu Naidu could figure in the talks,” they said.

Seat-Sharing Negotiations

Sources also said that leaders of several opposition parties have sought an early seat-sharing formula to be worked out to ensure that a joint candidate is put up from the opposition side against the BJP candidates in Lok Sabha seats. The resolution issued on September 1, after the third meeting of the bloc, said the parties would contest polls together “as far as possible,” and that seat sharing in arrangements in different states would be “initiated immediately” and concluded “at the earliest.”

Speaking on the issue, JDU’s KC Tyagi on Tuesday said that today’s meeting is very crucial in terms of campaigns and for articulating issues. “From October 2, Jan Sabha’s will be conducted, for which tomorrow’s meeting has been called,” he said.

According to opposition leaders, while states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar are sorted, others like Delhi, Punjab, and West Bengal are likely to be challenging. Several leaders said that the parties have to “shed their egos” and “vested interests” in arriving at such a formula. While no decision has been taken on the criteria, it is likely to be based on the performance of parties on a particular seat in recent polls. A source aware of the details said the issue of seat sharing will be addressed, even if it may not be finalized in the meeting today. The leaders will also focus on a broad outlay of the election campaign for taking on the BJP, the sources said.

Campaign Planning

The meeting will also focus on finalizing campaigns and rallies to be held in the coming days. Leaders will also look at the decisions taken in meetings of the different sub-groups like the campaign committee, working group on media, research, and social media sub-groups. “A final shape will be given to the agenda including what would be the programs and where the campaign will be held. It will all be deliberated upon,” a source said.

Ahead of the meeting, panel member Raghav Chadha said it will have discussions on issues like reaching out to people, planning joint rallies, and working out door-to-door campaigns, which will be different for each state. “Every political party will have to sacrifice three things to make this alliance successful – ambition (mahatvakanksha), a difference of opinion (matbhed), and manbhed,” Chadha said.

‘Sanatan Dharma’ Row

Sources said the alliance partners may also discuss the row over Tamil Nadu Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader Udhayanidhi Stalin’s statement on ‘Sanatan Dharma’. Stalin compared the ‘Sanatan Dharma’ with diseases like ‘dengue and malaria’ and called for its ‘eradication’. After relieving backlash from the BJP-led government, most alliance partners have either distanced themselves from the issue or have criticized the DMK scion for his comment. This raised speculations of trouble among the alliance partners.

However, sources said, “all 26 parties that are part of the bloc can have their individual stand on the issue and they don’t need to be photocopies of each other.” Earlier, when asked to Comment on the issue, AAP’s Raghav Chaddha said, “Some leader from some party makes such remarks… it doesn’t mean it is the statement of the alliance. The alliance has been formed to raise big issues like price rise and unemployment facing the country. The statement made by some small leader, from a district in a state, is not the official stand of the alliance.”

About I.N.D.I.A Bloc

The coordination cum election strategy committee of the opposition’s INDIA bloc has 14 members – K C Venugopal (Congress), T R Baalu (DMK), Hemant Soren (JMM), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena-UBT), Tejashwi Yadav (RJD), Raghav Chadha (AAP), Javed Ali Khan (SP), Lalan Singh (JDU), D Raja (CPI), Omar Abdullah (National Conference), Mehbooba Mufti (PDP), Abhishek Banerjee (TMC), and a member from the CPIM.

At the first meeting of the Opposition bloc in Patna in June, it was decided that the strongest candidate from each seat would be picked up for the Lok Sabha polls. Over two dozen opposition parties have formed the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance unitedly in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

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