Opposition INDIA bloc hold crucial talks to strategise on 2024 LS polls

Opposition INDIA bloc meeting in Mumbai
Opposition INDIA bloc meeting in Mumbai

Mumbai | Amid speculation of early polls and formation of a panel to explore the possibility of 'one nation, one election', top leaders of the Opposition bloc INDIA on Friday initiated crucial discussions to give structure to their cooperation and crystallise their plans about seat sharing and a common agenda to take on the NDA in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

During the formal talks in the third round of opposition meeting, the opposition leaders are likely to come out with a joint statement and announce the coordination panel besides some sub panels to give proper shape to their poll plans.

Leaders, who have gathered here from across the country, will move forward on specific issues like setting up a coordination committee and form sub groups to work on their common agenda, media strategy, joint actions and programmes.

During informal talks over dinner on Thursday night, the leaders stressed on the urgency to finalise seat sharing and come out with a joint agenda in a few weeks' time, sources said.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has asked leaders of various parties to give one name from their respective parties for being part of the coordination committee.

The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) is also expected to unveil its logo on Friday.

The sources added that the opposition grouping should have a team of spokespersons who would speak on behalf of the alliance. They will also discuss issues relating to having a convenor for the bloc.

It was decided that a coordination committee will be formed after discussions, along with at least four sub-groups which include one to plan the joint agenda of the alliance, another on preparing the action plan and handling social media, and one on research and data analysis to take on the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Besides, a sub-committee would also be set up for chalking out joint campaign and rallies.

While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is learnt to have told the informal dinner meeting that the bloc should come out with its manifesto by October 2, her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal called for finalising seat sharing among parties for the Lok Sabha polls by the end of next month.

Samajwadi Party's (SP) Ram Gopal Yadav is also learnt to have called for finalising seat sharing between parties in states early, saying there is no time left for the opposition alliance.

Kharge is learnt to have told the meeting to prepare a common national agenda. He told the leaders to prepare bullet points.

Discussions were also held on Thursday on the special session of Parliament being convened at a short notice, with Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar saying the opposition should be ready for all contingency plans to take on the NDA's surprise element strategy and "gimmicks".

The government has convened a special session of Parliament for five days between September 18 and 22.

The Centre has also constituted a committee headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind to explore the feasibility of "one nation, one election", opening the possibility of Lok Sabha polls being advanced so that they could be held with a string of state assembly contests.

Shiv Sena (UBT) president Uddhav Thackeray told the meeting last evening that the Parliament session is being convened on the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi and wondered "what was cooking".

"We should not delay our plans further and begin work at the earliest," he said.

Most leaders agreed for early finalisation of poll plans for 2024 considering that there could be early elections, while stressing that there was no time left with them and mere meetings would not help.

"Elections are coming near and we have to put our things in place and reach out to people," said a leader.

Another leader said there was no point holding meetings and the alliance should initiate action plans and reach out to people while suggesting that poll rallies and agitations should begin as early as next month.

Some leaders also raised the issue of electronic voting machines and said there should be a discussion on that too.

Kharge, former Congress chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) president Uddhav Thackeray, West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee, AAP convener Kejriwal, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, among others, are participating in the discussions.

National Conference's Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja, CPI (ML) leader Dipankar Bhattacharya, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and SP president Akhilesh Yadav, and RLD's Jayant Chaudhary, are also among those holding hectic parleys.

Before the meeting, all the INDIA bloc leaders posed for a group photograph.

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