Is Nitish Kumar going to be INDIA bloc convenor?

New Delhi: Leaders of the opposition parties will gather in Mumbai for two days from August 31 to take further steps to cement the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) and evolve a comprehensive strategy for next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

Apart from unveiling the logo of INDIA, the meeting will also name the convenor of the opposition grouping.

Among the contenders are Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (Janata Dal-United), his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad.

There was also a suggestion that former Congress president Sonia Gandhi should lead the bloc since she had successfully helmed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

However, the Congress does not appear to be keen on taking the lead role or be seen as imposing itself on others for being the largest opposition party with a pan-India presence.

Kumar’s profile and credentials make him a fit candidate for the post though some parties are wary of his frequent switches.

Kumar’s party colleagues insist that his long political and administrative stature was fit for any big position either in the government or the organisation.

In fact, it was the Bihar chief minister who had taken the initiative of bringing all the opposition parties together. The first meeting of the grouping was held in Patna in June followed by the second conclave in Bengaluru in July. The name INDIA was finalised in the Bengaluru meeting after which Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge announced that an 11-member coordination committee would be set up in the next conclave.

The RJD chief appears to have put a spoke in Kumar’s wheels by claiming that the INDIA bloc won’t have a single national convenor but multiple coordinators for different states.

The move, if implemented, will create confusion among the opposition parties given that there will be multiple power centres. For the success of the alliance, it is imperative to have a national convenor who will steer the grouping and act as an arbitrator in the event of muscle flexing by different parties over seat sharing.

The opposition leaders are fully aware that their survival is at stake if they don’t shed their egos. They know how important it is to come under a strong and united banner and thus stay politically relevant. In fact, the 2024 election is a make-or-break for many opposition leaders.

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