The first coordination committee of the INDIA block of 28 opposition parties has decided to finally start the process of seat sharing for both coming state assembly elections scheduled by year end as also the Lok Sabha polls by early 2024.The spokesman K C Venugopal made it clear after the CC meeting on September 13 that maximum efforts would be made to complete the state level discussions by October 30. The process is too complex, that way even if the seat sharing talks are not completed by October 30, there should be no problem, there is enough time to finalise the names of the candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.
Lot of commentators belonging to the BJP camp are jittery at the unity of the opposition parties under INDIA and their determination to field joint candidate from the Alliance against the BJP and its allies in each of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. Their argument is that these disparate parties will never be able to agree on sharing of seats between them due to their conflicting political interests and it will be again a sort of easy win for the Narendra Modi led NDA in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.. They generally focus on the state level differences and enmity between the Congress and the CPI(M) led Left Front in Kerala and Trinamool Congress vis a vis Congress-Left alliance in West Bengal.
Yes, there are differences as the political parties have differing visions, but the moot point is that these 28 political parties are united to deny the Prime Minister Narendra Modi the third term in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and they are determined to arrive at maximum understanding on one on one seat sharing formula against the BJP. Once that spirit is there, the seat sharing talks are sure to be smoother. A close look at the 543 Lok Sabha seats reveals that in around 400 Lok Sabha seats, the INDIA partners are already working as a block and only in other 143 seats, extensive talks will be needed to narrow down the differences on claims. The focus really will be on these 143 seats.
Let it be elaborated a bit.. Right now, the major problem of alliance talks will be in respect to Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi, Assam and the largest state of the country Uttar Pradesh. All these states together have 140 seats. Apart J& K has 6 seats which have to be negotiated among the three powerful INDIA partners Congress, National Conference and PDP. In Delhi and Punjab, the ruling AAP and the Congress together have the potential of defeating the BJP in most of the seats. AAP may think itself as a bigger political party as against the Congress in these two states, but in Lok Sabha polls, the Congress will get an advantage and AAP has to think about that if they are ready for negotiations.
At the same time, in Gujarat, the Congress has nil seat as again 26 belonging to BJP. There are no signs that the Congress has been able to substantially improve its support base as against the ruling BJP after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, whereas AAP has expanded its base into a number of cities in Gujarat. AAP is not a big force till now and the Congress remains the main party to take on BJP in Gujarat. A combination of the Congress and AAP against the BJP can ensure the reduction of seats from the BJP kitty. It will be a win win situation for both because any new seat gained by INDIA is a jolt to the BJP as Gujarat is its fortress and the party depends heavily on its tally from this state of Prime Minister Narendra Modiand Home Minister Amit Shah.
Uttar Pradesh with 80 seats poses the real problem for INDIA. Samajwadi Party and RLD are both active members of INDIA and it makes good political sense to have a total alliance with the Congress to fight the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. The victory of the Samajwadi Party candidate in Ghosi by election early this month is the vindication that the INDIA partners, if united, can defeat the BJP even in Uttar Pradesh in large number of seats. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav is in a mood to have seat sharing talks with the Congress but the Congress should not demand too many seats, not at par with its actual strength on the ground. Taking into account the mood of the INDIA partners in UP after Ghosi win, it should be the responsibility at the central leadership to ensure total understanding of the INDIA parties in UP against the BJP and its allies. The road to Delhi throne is through victory in UP. INDIA block has to work for a minimum of 40 seats out of 80 seats from UP in 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
There are four states, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra where the INDIA partners are already working in a coalition. The first three are ruling coalitions. There are 141 seats in these four states. The parameters are set, it will only need adjustments and some fine tuning. This will be more in Maharashtra as both the Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar led NCP have been split with the majority MLAs joining the NDA. Congress with its 44 MLAs is now the biggest party of MVA. Naturally, the Congress will seek bigger share of the Lok Sabha seats in the 2024 polls. The differences will be cropping up, that has to be sorted out at the highest level of the leadership. The leaders of Congress, Shiv Sena led by Uddhav and the NCP led by Sharad Pawar are already having state level talks and those are going well. The INDIA alliance is sure to do well in Maharashtra with 48 Lok Sabha seats.
Now about the Congress which is the main national party taking on the BJP as the partner of INDIA alliance. Congress will be the deciding party in respect to seat sharing in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Himachal, Haryana, Uttarakhand and the north eastern states excepting Tripura.. In some states where the Congress is decider, the SP, CPI and CPI(M) have some support base. The Congress has to consider how to make use of these INDIA partners support to ensure a total mobilization of INDIA against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections., and if possible in the assembly elections also.
In Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha also, the Congress will take on the BJP and the regional parties on its own. Both CPI and the CPI(M) are having pockets of influence in these three states. The Congress can explore the possibility of tie up with both the communist parties in these three states in the Lok Sabha elections. Though YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh and BJD in Odisha are not attached to any of the Fronts NDA or INDIA, the BRS led Telangana belongs to a different category. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has officially said that BRS is not joining INDIA because of its main fight with the Congress in the coming assembly elections, but nationally, the BRS is against the BJP. Both the CPI and the CPI(M) have good relations with the BRS, but as a part of INDIA, it is fair that the two CPs align with the Congress in Lok Sabha elections in both assembly and Lok Sabha polls in Telangana.
West Bengal and Kerala belong to a separate category. In Kerala, the present pattern of the Congress led UDF vs the CPI(M) led LDF will continue as the BJP has no seat among the 20Lok Sabha seats from Kerala. Whoever wins from UDF or LDF belongs to INDIA. In 2019elections, the LDF got only one seat while the UDF got 19 including 15 by the Congress. This time the LDF has to work very hard to improve its tally from Kerala. It is only from Kerala that the CPI(M) and the CPI can get more seats. The Congress has been rejuvenated at the success of the latest by poll in Kerala where the late chief minister Omen Chandy’s son defeated the CPI(M) candidate by a big margin. The state Congress is making full use of the Wayanad Lok Sabha member Rahul Gandhi’s image to trounce the LDF both in the Lok Sabha as also in the next state assembly elections in 2026. For the Left, the time will be quite tough in the coming months.
In Bengal, the CPI(M) has no Lok Sabha seat from the state while the Congress has two seats. There is every possibility that Mamata Banerjee will negotiate a national deal with the Congress on seat sharing. As part of it, the Trinamool will offer the Congress four or five seats out of the total of 42 seats while the Congress at the central level has to agree to one seat to TMC in Assam, one seat in Meghalaya and one seat in Manipur. Sources say that Mamata can even give 6seats to the Congress in Bengal if the Congress high command agrees to its demand in the three NE states.
The Congress leadership is desperate for emerging as the party with a minimum 120 to 130 seats in the new Lok Sabha and they may eventually agree to a deal with Mamata. Banerjee. That will lead the Bengal CPI(M) to fight alone if the state CPI(M) sticks to its present anti-Mamata position and the CPI(M) central leadership gives approval to it. But if the Congress high command goes by the position of the state Congress, there is a possibility of a fight of the Congress-Left alliance against both the Congress and the BJP in the 2024 polls.
In that case, there will be two INDIA fronts fighting the BJP in West Bengal. The problem for the state CPI(M) is that its votes are scattered and the Party is in no position to even win one seat in Lok Sabha on the basis of its own strength, whereas the Congress has concentrated base in at least four to five Lok Sabha constituencies. But once the election campaign starts, there is every possibility that the TMC led front will emerge as the main INDIA front and polarise the campaign between TMC and the BJP. That will be a disaster for the CPI(M) in terms of seats. In 2019, the party did not get any seat, in 2024, the same may be repeated. Mamata can offer one Lok Sabha seat to another INDIA constituent CPI(ML) Liberation, it is learnt.
In Tripura, the CPI(M) still has some chances in Lok Sabha polls, if the party forms a steady front with the Congress and the Tipra Motha. In the recent assembly by poll, the CPI(M) lost in both the seats to the BJP candidates. The state party complained of large scale rigging by the BJP and boycotted the counting. The party had a golden chance as the tribals party Tipra Motha supported the CPI(M) candidates. There was very little coordination between the CPI(M) with the Congress and the TM in the last days of the campaign.
Both the Congress and TM leaders are jittery at the organisational failure of the state CPI(M). This has to be corrected. Tripura has two seats in Lok Sabha. If there is a firm alliance of the Left Front led by the CPI(M) with the Congress and TM, the chances of INDIA winning Lok Sabha seats are bright. But for that, the state CPI(M) organisation has to be substantially streamlined.TM supremo Pradyot Manikya Dev Verma, is angry with BJP leadership at the moment. This is the right time for the CPI(M) and the Congress to persuade the TM to join actively the Tripura alliance of the Left and the Congress and fight the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.
In North East, there are 25 seats including 14 from Assam. Congress will be the decider party in NE states including Assam. The Congress has to build a stable front in association with the anti-BJP regional parties, the AIDUF, Trinamool Congress as also the CPI and the CPI(M) which have some pockets of influence. Similarly, the Congress will have to carry dialogue with the non-NDA parties which are active in the states. There is anti-BJP sentiment in the NE states after the Manipur developments. The Congress leadership has to take into account all these factors while negotiating with the parties opposed to BJP. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma is looking after the NE states on behalf of the BJP. He is a very efficient negotiator. The Congress has to field someone who can match him in NE politics. The position is better compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In sum, the process of seat sharing in about 140 to 150 seats will be quite time consuming, but with grit and determination to fight together, even if the INDIA partners are able to organise one on one in around 400 seats where the process is easy, that will be a big gain for the INDIA alliance. The central leaders must create a mechanism at the head quarter. In case the talks get stalled at the state level, the centre will have powers to help sort out the issue. That will be a big facilitator in the seat sharing process. Time is running out. The Lok Sabha polls may be preponed. INDIA partners should be in a battle mode to fight the BJP and its allies. (IPA Service)