Congress Decides To Seriously Look At Possible New Alliances With Smaller Parties

Congress Decides To Seriously Look At Possible New Alliances With Smaller Parties

Traditionally, the Congress has always been sluggish when it comes to sharing political space and taking the initiative to ally with small parties

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Wednesday, December 27, 2023, 12:38 PM IST
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Congress | Representational Photo

Gladdened by the results of recent political opinion polls undertaken by a private agency in Maharashtra, the Congress party has decided to seriously look at possible new alliances with smaller parties like Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).

Such alliances are expected to boost Congress’ seat-winning prospects in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Traditionally, the Congress has always been sluggish when it comes to sharing political space and taking the initiative to ally with small parties, especially in Maharashtra, where they have had an alliance with Sharad Pawar’s NCP since 1999.

The rethink came after a private agency carried out a survey in the state to get a sense of the political mood. The findings, released last weekend, showed that more than half of the 48 Lok Sabha seats were likely to go to the Maha Vikas Aghadi or the MVA, which comprises Sharad Pawar’s NCP, Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and the Indian National Congress Party (INC). Incidentally, the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition has been repeatedly touting a magic number close to 45 of the 48 seats, even though the survey gave them barely 19 to21!

Significance of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi

In the past few days, a small regional party, mainly representing the backward classes, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) formed by Prakash Ambedkar, has been putting out feelers about its willingness to become a part of the Congress-led I.N.D.I.A. formulation in the state.

It is noteworthy that the VBA contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in a soft alliance with the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, also known as the AIMIM, and won seven to 12 per cent of the votes in all constituencies where they contested, a sizable vote share. VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar has been spearheading the call to enter an alliance with the opposition for the 2024 polls.

On Tuesday, Ambedkar said that a proper seat-sharing formula could be worked out and he expected 12 seats for his party. This number will obviously be unacceptable to the Congress as well as Sharad Pawar’s NCP; however, sources in the Congress party said that earlier in the day there was some communication between their state leadership and the national dispensation, wherein the possibility of a dialogue to work out a seat-sharing formula was brought up.

NCP Chief Sharad Pawar said, “In theory, I am fully in support of such an alliance but seat-sharing and other formalities will have to be decided by all the constituents of the MVA.”

Meanwhile, AIMIM Lok Sabha MP Imtiyaz Jalil told the media in Mumbai on Tuesday, that his party too was eager to ally with the Congress and said that both parties would benefit if a formula could be worked out for the 2024 polls. A prominent Congress leader told the FPJ that since smaller parties were now showing interest in joining the INDIA alliance in Maharashtra, the party was on the verge of forming a special committee to study and hold a detailed discussion to fast-track the process of forming a pre-poll alliance with such prospective partners.

VBA has a stronghold in Akola district

The VBA has a stronghold in Akola district of the Vidarbha region, while the MIM has its bastion in Marathwada region. Congress leader Ashok Chavan said, “I welcome the possibility of some more partners joining our alliance. I am personally happy with this but details will have to be worked out by the party leaders in New Delhi, we will abide by whatever is decided jointly.” Former CM Uddhav Thackeray has been strongly in favour of the VBA joining INDIA.

“Prakash Ambedkar has a large following throughout the state and we will immensely benefit if he is with us,” Thackeray said, speaking to the media on the subject. Seat-sharing talks will be crucial in deciding how the new alliances with smaller players get cemented; for the time being, however, most constituents of the opposition alliance seem positive about the possibility of adding new partners. Seat-sharing talks are expected to officially start in the first week of the new year.

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