26 Feb 2024

Lok Sabha Elections-2024: Challenges Persist for Congress Despite Securing Alliances with Key Allies

New Delhi: While the Congress has successfully secured alliances with the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the challenges for the main Opposition party are far from over. With the general election just months away, the INDIA bloc is yet to kickstart its campaign against the formidable election machinery of the BJP.

The Uphill Battle in Bengal

In Bengal, the Congress faces a daunting task in bringing the Trinamool Congress back to the negotiation table. Despite earlier failed talks over seat-sharing, the state Congress unit, led by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, aimed for about 10 seats, but the Trinamool offered only two. The discord escalated with Chowdhury branding Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee as an "opportunist."

Efforts to reconcile have been ongoing, with Rahul Gandhi downplaying the rift, but no seat-sharing understanding has been reached. Chowdhury alleges internal divisions within Trinamool on whether to align with Congress, citing dilemmas related to minority votes and potential government backlash. 

Chowdhary said, "They are in a dilemma. They are not saying officially that the process of forging the alliance has ended.A faction within the party is of the opinion that without the INDIA alliance, a solo contest might lead to minority communities in West Bengal voting against them. This faction within the TMC advocates for the alliance's continuation. Conversely, another faction is concerned that placing too much emphasis on the alliance in Bengal could prompt the Modi government to deploy ED and CBI against them. The TMC, grappling with these dual dilemmas, has been unable to reach a decisive resolution." 

The absence of Mamata Banerjee from the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra adds another layer of complexity. In the case of an understanding now, the two parties will face the tall challenge of hurriedly putting together a joint campaign plan and reaching out to the voters.

Maharashtra's Seat-Sharing Quandary

In Maharashtra, the INDIA bloc is yet to announce a seat-sharing plan. Discussions within Maha Vikas Aghadi, including Congress, Shiv Sena, and the NCP led by Sharad Pawar, are in the final stages. Rahul Gandhi's talks with Shiv Sena's Balasaheb Thackeray over a deadlock reveal disagreements over Mumbai's Lok Sabha seats.

Rahul Gandhi is reported to have engaged in a conversation with Thackeray to address an ongoing deadlock. According to sources, the Congress is expressing its interest in competing for three out of the six Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai, specifically Mumbai South Central, Mumbai North Central, and Mumbai North West. 

On the other hand, Thackeray is said to be aiming for 18 Lok Sabha seats in the state, which includes four in Mumbai—Mumbai South, Mumbai North West, Mumbai North East, and Mumbai South Central. The two leaders engaged in an hour-long discussion in an attempt to find a resolution to the impasse.

The Congress also faces setbacks in Maharashtra with the exits of senior leaders Milind Deora, Ashok Chavan, and Baba Siddique. State Congress chief Nana Patole denies internal disputes and emphasizes MVA's strength. However, the challenge lies in spreading awareness about new names and symbols, particularly in rural areas, after the split of Shiv Sena and NCP.

What's Settled So Far

Amid these challenges, the Congress has successfully finalized seat-sharing pacts with two major INDIA forces - SP and AAP. In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress secured 17 seats out of 80 and gave one seat in Madhya Pradesh to the SP. With AAP, agreements cover Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Chandigarh, and Goa, while both parties will go solo in Punjab. Balancing grassroots sentiments with the larger goal of countering the BJP remains a challenge in these alliances, particularly with regional strongholds.

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