Mamata Banerjee has said INDIA needs a seat-sharing arrangement to fight BJP
The Congress's defeats in three Assembly polls in the Hindi heartland have given way to rumblings inside the INDIA opposition bloc, with allies pointing out how the main opposition party's decision to fight the polls on its own led to a division of votes, benefiting the BJP.
The Congress lost the polls due to lack of a seat-sharing arrangements with other INDIA members, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said today, stressing that it is a "defeat of the Congress, not the people". Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, too, responded to the Congress defeats, suggesting that regional parties must lead the fight against BJP in areas they hold sway in.
"Congress has won Telangana. They would have won Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Some votes were cut by INDIA parties. This is the truth. We had said suggested a seat-sharing arrangement. They lost because of division of votes," Ms Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister, said in an address to the Assembly.
"Along with ideology, you need to have a strategy," she said, adding, "If there is a seat-sharing arrangement, BJP won't come to power in 2024."
The INDIA alliance of Opposition parties, she said, will work together and rectify mistakes ahead of the general election next year. "We will learn from the mistakes," she said.
The remarks come after the Congress suffered defeats in three heartland states - Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The party managed to win just one seat in Mizoram after contesting all 40. Its sole consolation is a victory in Telangana.
In this round of Assembly elections, Congress and its INDIA allies had contested separately on many seats. This, many have pointed out, led to a division in votes and benefited the BJP.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress was in talks with Akhilesh Yadav's party, but the talks fell apart over seat-sharing. At one point, Kamal Nath, who was leading Congress's campaign, dismissed a media query on the alliance talks, saying, "choro Akhilesh Vakhilesh".
This remark sealed the fate of the alliance talks. "The insulting words used for Akhileshji by Kamal Nathji is the reason behind the Congress's loss. The Congress lost because of those undignified remarks," Samajwadi Party spokesperson Manoj Yadav Kaka said.
Speaking about the election results, Mr Yadav said today, "This is a long battle. We have to prepare a lot to defeat a party like BJP. We have to fight their strategies with discipline."
INDIA, he said, has to "get back where we started". "We started on the point that we have to support the parties in the regions they are strong in. The 2024 polls will be historic. There will be change."
As the trends pointed to Congress's impending defeats yesterday, INDIA allies had started criticising the main opposition party's decision not to fight the elections together.
Janata Dal-United's KC Tyagi said the Congress "ignored other INDIA parties, but was unable to win on its own". Kerala Chief Minister and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan said that it was necessary to fight together while taking on the BJP in the Hindi heartland.
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut said the outcome of Madhya Pradesh polls would have been different had the Congress shared some seats with other constituents of INDIA bloc.
A senior leader from a major Opposition party told news agency PTI that it appeared that Congress was waiting for the poll results for greater bargaining powers within the bloc.
"There have been no meetings of the INDIA bloc in a long time. The Congress did not want to meet. Perhaps they were waiting for the results to have greater bargaining power," he said.
But with its gamble not paying off, the main Opposition party is now on the backfoot before the next meeting of INDIA bloc this Wednesday. Ms Banerjee, sources said, is unlikely to attend the meeting.