INDIA Bloc: Is the Opposition alliance falling apart?


Congress Party leaders leading a protest in New Delhi (ANI)

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar goes back to BJP-led NDA. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren lands in jail. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launches attack on Congress. Can the Opposition alliance survive till the elections? 

Our Bureau
New Delhi/Patna/Lucknow

The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc was launched last year with much fanfare and expectations. The Congress party’s victory in the Karnataka assembly elections gave a big boost to the chances of all opposition parties coming together to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the 2024 general elections.

But the opposition alliance has been floundering in recent weeks. And this week it got two serious jolts. First, JMM leader and former chief minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren, was sent to five-day custody of the Enforcement Directorate by the High Court in connection with an alleged land scam case. Hemant Soren was arrested by the ED after several summons in the alleged land scam case and several hours of questioning on Wednesday night.

Earlier, in a bigger setback, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dumped the INDIA bloc and went back to NDA. Nitish Kumar on Wednesday said that now he will stay in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) forever and will continue to work for the people of his state. Hitting out at the opposition’s grouping, which has vowed to take on the BJP at the Centre in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, Kumar said that the alliance’s name –INDIA– was christened even after his requests to choose another one. “I was urging them to choose another name for the alliance. But they had already finalized it. I was trying so hard. They did not do even one thing. Till today they haven’t decided which party will contest how many seats,” Kumar told reporters.

Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar being greeted by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) National President JP Nadda after taking oath as Bihar Chief Minister for ninth time, at Raj Bhavan, in Patna on Sunday (ANI)

He said, “Then I left them and came back to who I was with initially. Now I will stay here forever. I will keep working for the people of Bihar.”

Earlier, Nitish Kumar took the oath as Chief Minister of Bihar for the ninth time in Raj Bhawan, Patna, switching sides again, this time with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

It was for the second time in two years that Nitish Kumar had jumped the ship, his fifth crossover in a little over a decade.

INDIA or ‘Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance’ is a group of opposition parties, including the Congress. The parties have come together to take on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and prevent it from winning a third straight term at the Centre in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections

INDIA bloc is now trying to recover from these shocks by trying to rally support for Hemant Soren. Members of the INDIA bloc has hit out at the arrest of former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren by the ED alleging that the BJP was using agencies to destabilize governments.

Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) following the arrest of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Chairperson Hemant Soren in a land scam case and said that the “anti-tribal face of BJP” is coming to the fore in Jharkhand.  “BJP has already lost the 2024 elections morally, now only its political defeat is yet to be announced. Seeing such undemocratic actions of the BJP, even those who voted for them have already retreated this time. In the PDA which we are continuously talking about, the tribal society is also included along with the backward classes, Dalits, minorities and half of the population i.e. women and the oppressed and unhappy people among the advanced people,” he added.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also took a hit at the center-led BJP party and alleged that the Modi government, which put opposition leaders in jail by misusing ED, CBI and IT, is now hatching another conspiracy

Taking to X, Jairam Ramesh posted, “To make false allegations against the opposition to hide his crime is the way of ‘Ahankaracharya’! The Modi government, which has put opposition leaders in jail by misusing ED, CBI and IT, is now hatching another conspiracy.”

Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi also hit out at the center alleging misuse of central agencies. “ED, CBI, IT etc. are no longer government agencies, now they have become BJP’s ‘eliminate opposition cell’. The BJP itself, steeped in corruption, is running a campaign to destroy democracy in its obsession with power” Rahul Gandhi said in a post on X.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi waves to the supporters as he leads the party’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Murshidabad on Thursday (ANI)

But, despite such signs of solidarity, bickering among the members have continued. Now, some members are doing damage control. Following Uttar Pradesh Congress in-charge Avinash Pandey’s remarks that the Samajwadi Party is adopting a ‘one-sided’ policy in Uttar Pradesh, party’s Chief Akhilesh Yadav asserted on Wednesday that there will be an alliance in the state and that the seats will be allocated ‘properly’.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) announced the names of 16 candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The SP has offered 11 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh to the Congress. “There will be an alliance in Uttar Pradesh and seats will be allocated properly. We will try to throw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of the state,” Yadav said.

“The Samajwadi Party believes that the candidate who can take on the Bharatiya Janata Party will get the ticket. We are not inclined towards any particular candidate. Efforts will be made to defeat the BJP,” he added.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the INDIA bloc was held in the national capital on Wednesday to discuss the seat-sharing agenda for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, DMK leader TR Baalu, and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury left Kharge’s residence after the meeting.

But, the rift between the INDIA bloc ally partners continued as Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reiterated that she wouldn’t give even a single seat to the Congress party, and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar recently dumped the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) and the INDIA bloc to form a new government with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.

“We had given a proposal to the Congress party of two seats in Malda, but they didn’t agree on that. Now, they won’t get even a single seat in the state,” said Mamata Banerjee.

Mamata spoke on how her good relationship with the Congress party deteriorated over time because of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

“CPM is the number one broker of BJP, I have suffered a lot of beatings from CPM and I will never forgive that. I had good contacts with Congress. Because of CPM, my relationship with the Congress party got spoiled.”

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders and supporters in Kolkata on Friday (ANI)

The comments from the West Bengal CM come even as Congress sources indicated that they were still attempting to get Mamata on board as a potential ally and that seat-sharing talks in Bengal were only on hold.

“INDIA bloc seat sharing in West Bengal is on hold. TMC and Congress are considering the proposals. TMC is still a part of INDIA Alliance,” the party’s sources said.

The rift between INDIA bloc ally partners –Trinamool Congress and Congress– over a seat-sharing agreement in West Bengal continued to spill into the open on Wednesday as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reiterated that she won’t give even a single seat to the Congress party.

“We had given a proposal to the Congress party of two seats in Malda, but they didn’t agree on that. Now, they won’t get even a single seat in the state,” said Mamata Banerjee.

With the Opposition alliance threatening to fall apart amid rising differences over seat-sharing, West Bengal Chief Minister and ruling TMC supremo, Mamata Banerjee, on Thursday asserted that her party would form the government at the Centre along with like-minded regional partners after the Lok Sabha elections. “I can assure you all that we will form the government in Delhi. As to how or in what manner we form the government at the Centre is something we will decide after the (Lok Sabha) elections through talks with like-minded regional parties,” the TMC Supremo said.

The West Bengal CM had earlier ruled out allying with the Congress, saying her party was quite capable of going it alone in the state and defeating the BJP-led NDA.

After Nitish Kumar going back to NDA and Hemant Soren landing in jail, the INDIA bloc has now to contend with threats from Mamata Banerjee. It is not a good sign for an alliance which is trying to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is now looking stronger than ever.

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