Editorial: Failing at the first hurdle

Editorial: Failing at the first hurdle

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Sunday, December 31, 2023, 10:00 PM IST
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I.N.D.I.A Alliance | File pic

At the last meeting of the I.N.D.I.A bloc in Delhi earlier in December the most significant decision was to complete the seat-sharing arrangement among its various constituents by the end of the month. Even at that time it was pointed out that accomplishing such an arduous task in such a short time would prove difficult. The deadline has come and gone but the Opposition parties are nowhere near sorting out their claims and counter-claims over 543 Lok Sabha seats. In fact, verbal skirmishes have broken out among leaders of several constituents, challenging one another’s claims. Nowhere was this more clear than in West Bengal. The leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Opposition Congress party and the CPI(M) have been openly engaged in a war of words, vehemently questioning one another’s claim over individual seats. Indeed, Trinamool Congress head and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee publicly pooh-poohed any talk of seat-sharing. Last week she most curtly stated that “I.N.D.I.A will be there across India , and in Bengal it will be the Trinamool Congress fighting the good fight.” She accused the state Congress leaders of arrogance, pitching their claim on the number of seats far beyond their strength on the ground. Apparently, the Congress has laid claim to a ‘minimum’ nine seats while the Trinamool Congress is unwilling to give a seat more than a paltry two. It should be noted that the CPI(M) has already rejected any chance of seat-sharing with the Trinamool Congress. The party would go it alone, at most entering into an alliance with the Congress. There is a mutual antipathy between the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress which overrides each party’s commitment to defeat the BJP in the Lok Sabha poll. In other key States seat-sharing is proving no less hazardous. In Maharashtra, for instance, the Uddhav Shiv Sena, claiming to be the largest constituent of the MVA, has staked claim over 23 seats, leaving the remainder 25 to be shared between the Congress and the NCP. A leader of the Congress immediately rejected the Uddhav Sena claim, saying the party would not settle for so few seats. More wordy exchanges between the alliance partners can only come as music to the BJP ears. In Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party has declared that it would contest all 80 seats there are in the state. Where that would leave the Congress Party and other groups in the I.N.D.I.A grouping can be easily imagined. Given that a seat-sharing arrangement within the 28-member strong — or weak? — alliance is far more arduous than even an agreement on choosing its prime ministerial candidate. For, ensuring one-to-one contests against the BJP alone can hobble the latter in its bid for a record third win in the Lok Sabha poll. But no party would cede its claims and be ready to make a sacrifice for fear of electoral oblivion later. The BJP can watch the goings-on in the tenuous alliance from the sidelines, leaving it to the voter to punish those who cannot even agree on seats, leave alone talk of a prime ministerial candidate.

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