INDIA targets October-end to fix seat-sharing formula

September 14,2023

The INDIA bloc of opposition parties on Wednesday decided to put off the contentious issue of working out the seat-sharing formula for forthcoming state elections and the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and said the matter would be sorted out at the state level “at the earliest”.

After the first meeting of their 14-member coordination committee here, held at the residence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, sources said the task of apportioning seats among themselves in order to engage BJP in direct fights would be completed by the end of October.

Omar’s plan may complicate seat sharing

Though the INDIA bloc of opposition parties said that the seat-sharing formula would be decided at the state level, there was a discussion that also brought to the fore the complexities involved in the task.

Emerging from the first meeting of their 14-member coordination committee in Delhi, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said, “I have proposed that seats that are already held by members of the INDIA bloc should not be open for discussion. We should be discussing those seats that are held by either BJP or parties not in our alliance.”

Such a formula would leave those who didn’t do well in different geographies discontented. The bloc decided to kick-start “joint public rallies” across India, “take up caste census” and, significantly, make a list of media programmes and TV anchors who would be boycotted by them.

Trinamool Congress, whose chief Mamata Banerjee had at the last meeting in Mumbai objected to “caste census” being put on the alliance’s agenda, was not represented in the meeting. Asked whether Trinamool had relented to allow “caste census” to be included among the common priorities, coordination committee members said they would sound out the TMC leadership and CPM, another absentee, on the issue.

A vacant chair was placed in Wednesday’s meeting to mark the absence of TMC functionary Abhishek Banerjee, to register their protest against BJP’s alleged vendetta politics. Banerjee had spoken to Pawar, Congress’s K C Venugopal and other members of the committee stating his reason for not attending the meeting and on issues that would be taken up. Venugopal began Wednesday’s joint press conference after the two-and-a-half-hour meeting by saying, “Banerjee could not attend the meeting because of the vendetta politics of the BJP and PM Narendra Modi.”

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, the other absentee on Wednesday, had spoken to Pawar earlier on the agenda. The coordination panel decided that the INDIA group would start joint public rallies with the first one likely to be held in the first week of October in Bhopal in election-bound Madhya Pradesh as was first reported by TOI.

“The Bhopal rally will highlight rising prices, unemployment and corruption of the BJP government,” Venugopal said. With the allies setting October-end as the deadline for resolving the seat-sharing issue, Venugopal said, “The coordination committee decided to start the process for determining seat-sharing. It was decided that the member parties will hold talks and decide at the earliest.”