Mumbai: Leaders of the opposition INDIA bloc are set to hold hectic parleys during a two-day conclave here starting Thursday during which they will announce a coordination committee and a logo for the alliance.
They would chalk out a joint campaign strategy to take on the NDA in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and iron out the differences among themselves. The leaders are also likely to announce a few panels to draft a common minimum programme of the alliance, to frame joint plans for holding agitations across the country and for seat sharing.
“The Mumbai meeting shall come out with a clear-cut roadmap for providing a progressive alternative to the regressive policies of the current regime,” RJD’s Manoj Jha told PTI.
The INDIA bloc is also likely to announce a secretariat for smooth coordination between the constituents and it is likely to be set up in the national capital. Besides, the members will also discuss the issue of having a coordinator or a chairperson to head the alliance.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is the frontrunner for the convenor’s post. There are also talks of former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi being considered to head the alliance.
According to sources, while Kumar has already announced that he is not in the race for the convernor’s post, Gandhi has privately expressed that she was against the proposal.
The leaders, some of whom have started arriving here for the two-day conclave, will take forward deliberations on contentious issues such as seat sharing. RJD president Lalu Prasad and his son Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav are already in Mumbai.
There are speculations of some more regional outfits joining the 26-party opposition alliance at its Mumbai conclave which is the third in a series of meetings held in Patna and Bengaluru.
The INDIA bloc’s first meeting was held in Patna in June, while the second one took place in Bengaluru in mid-July. The Bengaluru conclave had finalised the name of the alliance — Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).
Ahead of the Mumbai meeting, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has reiterated that his drive to forge the opposition unity was not prompted by any “personal ambitions” and he would like someone else to be made convener of the opposition coalition.
“I have been maintaining since the beginning that I have no desire for myself… I have no personal ambitions… I don’t want anything. Somebody else could be given the responsibility (convener post). My only wish is to unite the maximum number of parties (opposed to BJP) before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. I am working in this direction only,” Kumar said.
He had on Sunday said that “a few more” political parties were likely to join the INDIA alliance during its Mumbai meeting. Kumar, however, did not reveal the names of the likely entrants to the bloc.
“We will discuss issues related to seat sharing and will also finalise several other agenda in the Mumbai meeting. A few more political parties will join the INDIA coalition and it will be announced in the next meeting,” Kumar had said.
Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole has said that the INDIA bloc will coin the slogan “BJP Chale Jao (BJP Go Away)” at the meeting.
He said the grouping has many capable candidates for the prime minister’s post and claimed that some parties which are currently constituents of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) may switch over to the INDIA bloc.
Ahead of the conclave, Congress leader Milind Deora said that seat sharing for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls among alliance partners is more or less finalised in most states barring a few that require more time.
Deora, who is closely involved in organising the meeting, also hailed the “evolving chemistry” between the INDIA bloc partners and said the best example of that was in Maharashtra.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising the Shiv Sena (UBT), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress has formed several committees to plan various aspects of the meeting of the opposition bloc.
This is the first meeting of the opposition INDIA alliance in a state where none of the bloc members are in power. Unity would be the key focus of the meeting.
INDIA bloc constituent the RLD’s chief Jayant Chaudhary has dismissed as “conjecture” the talks about the possibility of his party switching over to the NDA and said parties would not be comfortable in joining hands with the BJP which is “very effective” at steam-rolling dissenting voices.
In an interview with PTI ahead of the conclave, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader also said the Congress has a “big role” going forward as it is a “well-understood brand” with many people across the country voting for the party for a long time.
At the conclave held in the Karnataka capital last month, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had said the opposition will fight the 2024 elections unitedly and succeed. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said their fight was against BJP’s ideology.