Nitish, Soren, Akhilesh to skip INDIA meet after Mamata indicated she too will
There has been disquiet in Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) over a delay in seat-sharing and Congress’s alleged disregard for regional parties
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, his Jharkhand counterpart, Hemant Soren, and Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav will skip the Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) meeting on Wednesday amid disquiet in the bloc over a delay in seat-sharing and Congress’s alleged disregard for regional parties.
The Congress called the meeting hours after suffering an electoral drubbing in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh on Sunday.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is scheduled to leave for North Bengal on Wednesday for a four-day visit, was also expected to stay away from the meeting. On Monday, she blamed the lack of seat-sharing arrangements for the Congress’s losses. She called the drubbing a defeat of the Congress and not a disaster for the larger Opposition.
On Tuesday, Bihar minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary, who has blamed Congress for ignoring regional parties, said Kumar has recovered from an illness and would not take part in the meeting as it was not required. He added Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) leader Rajiv Ranjan and Bihar minister Sanjay Jha will attend the meeting on Kumar’s behalf.
Choudhary said there was not much time left and that Congress should learn from the debacle in three states. He added there should be no further delay in seat sharing across states. “Nitish Kumar’s model is of a united fight and if that happens, a win is not improbable,” said Choudhary.
SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said Akhilesh Yadav has no plans of attending the INDIA bloc meeting. He added Ram Gopal Yadav or any other leader authorised will go for the meeting.
Ramgopal Yadav said Akhilesh Yadav was busy with some programmes in the Purvanchal region. “It does not matter if a leader does not participate. All parties will be there at the meeting. Leaders are busy. They have prior commitments... the meeting was announced suddenly.”
Akhilesh Yadav, whose party fielded candidates in Madhya Pradesh after a falling out with the Congress, on Monday said he was not disappointed with the assembly election results in heartland states while hoping it will not impact their prospects in the 2024 national polls.
Soren cited his busy schedule and said he would be unable to attend the INDIA bloc meeting while ruling out differences among the coalition partners. “I will be busy here. I spoke to [Congress chief Mallikarjuna] Kharge Ji yesterday [Monday]...maybe our representative will go.”
JD(U) leader KC Tyagi said another key member of the alliance, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, will be at the meeting. “The Congress will have to show a big heart. In key states such as Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu, it will have to offer the reins to stronger regional parties.”
He promised to give the Congress its due in Bihar. “Congress should not be overconfident to the extent of ignoring regional parties as it will be counterproductive.”
Tyagi called for keeping the options open for parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the YSR Congress Party for post-poll alliances. “BJD and YSR Congress Party were formed following splits in the Janata Dal and the Congress. Today, they are not with us, but after the polls, they may be helpful if the situation demands. The most important thing is to work out a workable plan and implement it. In many states, regional parties are stronger and the Congress needs to understand this.”
On November 2, Kumar criticised the Congress for being preoccupied with the elections in the five states and neglecting the INDIA bloc. The JD(U) attacked the Congress for ignoring the regional parties after the poll reverses in the three heartland states.
Tyagi said the JD-U has said what it needed to do and now the Congress has to decide on a fresh strategy by taking everyone along. “Nitish Kumar is the initiator of the alliance and his strategy of putting the best foot forward in each state needs to be applied.”