I.N.D.I.A. bloc’s first joint public rally in Bhopal early next month; seat-sharing to be finalised soon

New Delhi: Opposition I.N.D.I.A. bloc on Wednesday decided to hold their first joint public meeting in Bhopal in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh in the first week of October, and said the constituent parties will start seat-sharing talks at the earliest.

They said they will raise issues related to rising prices, unemployment, corruption and caste census.

This was decided at the first meeting of the coordination committee of the INDIA grouping which was held at the residence of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar here.

Twelve leaders of the 14-member panel were present in the meeting that took place under the shadow of a row over DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin’s remark on the Sanatan Dharma.

Congress General Secretary K C Venugopal, who is a member of the panel, said Abhishek Banerjee of the TMC could not attend the meeting due to the summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate. He alleged the ED summons was a result of the “vendetta politics” of the BJP and the prime minister.

“The coordination committee decided to start the process of determining the seat-sharing. It was decided that the member parties will hold the talks and decide (seat-sharing) at the earliest,” Venugopal said, reading out from a joint statement.

He said the committee also decided to hold joint public meetings in different parts of the country.

“The first public meeting will be held at Bhopal in the first week of October on the issue of rising prices, unemployment and corruption of the BJP government. The parties present in the meeting agreed to take up the issue of the caste census,” the Congress leader said.

He also said the coordination committee authorised the sub-group of media to decide upon the names of the anchors on whose shows none of the INDIA parties will send their representatives.

The leaders present at the meeting were: NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Congress’ K C Venugopal, Jharkhand Chief Minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren, CPI’s D Raja, SP’s Jawed Ali Khan, DMK’s T R Baalu, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, AAP MP Raghav Chadha, JD(U)’s Sanjay Jha, NC leader Omar Abdullah, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut.

Soren arrived late for the meeting.

The resolution issued on September 1, after the third meeting of the bloc in Mimbai, said the parties would contest polls together “as far as possible”, and that seat sharing in arrangements in different states would be “initiated immediately” and concluded “at the earliest”.

According to opposition leaders while states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Bihar are sorted, they face challenging negotiations for Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal.    The meeting also focussed on finalising campaigns and rallies to be held in coming days, but no decision in this regard was announced.

Over two dozen opposition parties have formed the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance unitedly in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

At the first meeting of the Opposition bloc in Patna in June, it was decided that the strongest candidate from each seat would be picked up for the Lok Sabha polls.

Sources said that leaders of several opposition parties have sought an early seat-sharing formula to be worked out to ensure that a joint opposition candidate is put up against BJP candidates in Lok Sabha seats.

However, several leaders said that the parties have to “shed their egos” and “vested interests” in arriving at such a formula.