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INDI-Alliance in Assam, Bihar cannot agree on seat-sharing, PM Face Sushmita Dev stakes her claim on seat and roils state Congress


By Ashis Biswas

Despite four rounds of prolonged talks, unity eludes, even on basic issues, potential partners in the much-hyped opposition alliance – famously christened – in east and northeast India. Major opposition parties of Assam   and Bihar have rejected two proposals, one on seat-sharing and the other on projecting a “PM face” for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

In Assam, the TMC had initially proposed to contest at least 5 out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats, as a major constituent of the INDI alliance. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had followed suit, also asking for 5 seats. Neither party has a strong base in Assam or the Northeast, although some TMC leaders are , as in most states, former Congressmen.

As for the AAP, it made an   initial foray into the region only after its spectacular win in the Assembly polls.  The party did marginally better than the TMC in the recent Guwahati municipal polls, winning one seat, while the TMC did not win any.

On the other hand, there is a certain following among the voters in the three Barak valley districts for the TMC of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. As the biggest opposition party in Assam, the Congress did not react very strongly to such demands, considered natural in the pre-election scenario.

It was no different with other parties with a  much stronger local base and roots, such as the Asam Gana Parishad(AGP), the CPI(M), various Bodo and other tribal parties, the Raisor Dal  and other major groups.

However, some parties want to contest from specific seats: the CPI(M) wants to contest from Barpeta. Following its example, the TMC wants to contest the Karimganj parliamentary seat in the Barak valley. Apparently, Susmita Dev, former Youth Congress leader, who later joined the TMC and enjoys a certain local support within the valley, would be the TMC's candidate.


Daughter of veteran Congress leader and Union Minister, the late Santosh Mohan Dev, Ms. Dev has in a manner of speaking begun her campaign already. She has pointed out the weaknesses and other problems within the state Congress in recent interviews, strongly backing her party's claim for the Karimganj seat.


Her remarks as expected did not go down well with the state Congress leadership. At a recent meeting of the state party, attended by central party observers apart from  state president Bhupen Bora, it was unanimously agreed that it was for the Congress as  the BJP's strongest challenger to decide and settle seat adjustment issues, in discussions to be held with other INDIA constituents.


Not only top Congress leaders, Congressmen from the Barak valley districts opposed Dev's unexpected demand for Karimganj without prior consultations at any level. Senior leaders from Hailakandi and Karimganj pointed out how Congress suffered because of a seat-sharing with the All India United democratic Front (AIUDF).


There should be no repeat in the 2024 LS polls, state Congress leaders said— the party could even suffer a split at the grassroots level!


As for the joint TMC/AAP campaign to project Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge as the united opposition's candidate for Prime Minister, Janata Dal (U) strongly opposed the move. Press reports from Patna suggested Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav think it is a calculated move to cut them to size.


It came as no surprise to see JD(U) leaders of  Bihar lose their cool. For them Nitish Kumar was the “PM Face” of INDIA, not Kharge.


Nitish-ji alone has the experience, the administrative acumen and the cleanest image among opposition leaders to fit the bill — others did not even come close! Nitish Kumar is not weighing in himself, but he has plenty of backers. Nitish Kumar as the  new PM' would certainly gather momentum  in the days to come.


Interestingly, the dissident JD(U) leader Sunilkumar Pintu struck a discordant note, attacking the INDI alliance openly. The fourth meeting in Delhi had been, he said, a ‘super flop' show! The so-called leaders could not agree on the simplest of things, even as they sought to put up a strong campaign! For his pains, Pintu was attacked in the media by his colleagues, who called for his immediate resignation — the man had earlier committed the cardinal sin of praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders for putting up a great show in the recent Assembly elections! (IPA Service)

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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