With less than 300, Congress to contest fewest seats ever after deals with INDIA partners | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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With less than 300, Congress to contest fewest seats ever after deals with INDIA partners

Apr 15, 2024 04:25 AM IST

The Congress party will contest around 298 seats, down from previous elections.

New Delhi: The Congress party is set to field the least number of Lok Sabha candidates since Independence in the 2024 national elections, primarily as a result of its seat pacts with allies of the INDIA bloc — the largest such pre-poll alliance for the grand old party at a time when its tally has diminished dramatically over the last two general elections.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge (ANI)
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge (ANI)

The Congress has so far announced 278 candidates from 27 states and all eight Union territories, and is yet to announce candidates from Haryana. The party will announce a few more seats in Bihar, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and two seats in UP — Rae Bareli and Amethi — and a couple of seats from West Bengal. The sum total of these is expected to add roughly another 20 seats.

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The Congress is likely to contest its fewest Lok Sabha seats ever
The Congress is likely to contest its fewest Lok Sabha seats ever

Its tally of seats contested will, therefore, be way short of the number of what it was in previous elections. According to the Election Commission data, the Congress contested 421 seats in 2019, 464 in 2014, 440 in 2009, and 417 in 2004, which is the lowest number of seats it has contested up to now of the 543 up for grabs in the general elections. To put these numbers (and the party’s slide) in perspective,the Congress won 52 seats in 2019, 44 in 2014, 206 in 2009 and 145 in 2004.

Between 1989 and 1999, when the coalition-era became an integral part of Indian elections, the Congress party still fielded candidates in over 450 seats. It had 453 candidates in 1999, 477 in 1998, 529 in 1996, 487 in 1991 (500 including Punjab — elections for the state were held in 1992), and 510 in 1989.

“We would not be contesting in a large number of seats. But definitely we will contest in more than 272 seats,” said a senior Congress strategist about its low numbers this time. 272 is the minimum number of candidates required to get a majority in the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress has already conceded a large number of seats to its allies in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu — the four states that account for 201 seats. In these four states, the Congress will have —17 candidates in UP including Amethi and Rae Bareli, nine in Bihar, nine in Tamil Nadu, and has announced 13 so far in Bengal.

The party will also contest fewer seats in Maharashtra, the largest electoral state after Uttar Pradesh. Out of the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies, the Congress is fielding candidates in 17, leaving 21 and 10 for its allies Shiv Sena (UBT) and National Congress Party (SP), respectively. In the last two elections, the party fought 25 and 26 seats in the state.

The Congress has also made a pact with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for Delhi, Gujarat and Haryana. In these three places, the Congress has conceded six seats to its alliance partner.

“You can’t possibly compare the INDIA bloc with the United Progressive Alliance as the UPA was a post-poll arrangement (in 2004) while INDIA is a pre-poll alliance. We are not unhappy with the number of seats we got. In an alliance, bigger parties will have to give space to smaller outfits,” said a second senior strategist of the party.

In all the four meetings of the INDIA bloc starting from Patna to the last one in Delhi, the allies had asked the Congress party to be more “flexible” and “generous” in seat pacts.

“We have accommodated parties where we have fought alone earlier. In Gujarat and Haryana, we have shared seats with AAP for the first time. This is our first Lok Sabha alliance with Shiv Sena (UBT) and the Left parties. The pact with Samajwadi Party has extended to include Madhya Pradesh, naturally we have given up some seats,” said the first Congress leader cited above.

A third Congress leader argued that the size of the seat pact for the Congress is “not that important” as the party is fighting this election as part of the INDIA alliance.

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