Congress Defers INDIA Alliance Meet After Top Leaders RSVP No

The raft of leaders RSVP-ing "no" to the Congress' call underlined the growing chasm in the INDIA bloc as regional parties grumble about the national party continuing to insist that it will fight elections on its own, or as the majority partner in each instance.

The last INDIA bloc meeting was in Mumbai on August 30-September 1 (File).

New Delhi:

A meeting of the INDIA opposition bloc to take place in Delhi tomorrow has been postponed, sources told NDTV this afternoon. The meeting - called by Congress boss Mallikarjun Kharge on Sunday, as his party was being decimated in three state elections - will now be held "at a date convenient to all".

The postponement came shortly after sources told NDTV that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Samajwadi Party boss Akhilesh Yadav both plan to skip the meet. On Monday, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said she too would not attend. All three are senior members of a bloc supposed to unite the opposition to take on the BJP in November's state polls and next year's Lok Sabha election, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will bid for an unprecedented third consecutive term.

Sources also said Mr Kumar, Mr Yadav and Ms Banerjee weren't the only senior INDIA leaders who backed out of Wednesday's meeting. Reports indicated Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, had also said he would skip the meeting; in his case, the state is battling floods due to Cyclone Michaung.

The raft of leaders RSVP-ing "no" to the Congress' call underlines the growing chasm in the INDIA bloc as regional parties grumble (louder and louder) about the national party, continuing to insist it will fight elections on its own, or as the majority partner, in each instance.

Both Akhilesh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee made that point this week, pointing out the margin of the Congress' defeats in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan could have been smaller, or perhaps even turned into victories, had it agreed to share seats. This was a reference to a squabble between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party of sharing six seats in Madhya Pradesh.

READ | BJP State Tally Now 12, Congress Down To Three. What It Means For 2024

"... we suggested seat-sharing (but) they (the Congress) lost because of division of votes," Ms Banerjee said. Mr Yadav, who seemed to be a little softer in his critics, reminded the Congress "we started on the point that we have to support parties in regions (in which) they are strong..."

Nitish, Akhilesh To Back Out Of INDIA Meet: Sources

Earlier today, sources told NDTV that Nitish Kumar and Akhilesh Yadav would send representatives instead; the Janata Dal (United) leader was likely to send party President Rajiv Ranjan, while Mr Yadav, a former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, was expected to send his uncle, Ramgopal Yadav.

READ | Akhilesh Yadav, Nitish Kumar To Skip INDIA Meet, May Send Representatives

Sources also suggested Mr Yadav saying distancing himself from the meet may have been a question of optics, and that he wanted the top leadership of the Congress to approach him.

Sources, however, further indicated that the other half of the Bihar government - the Rashtriya Janata Dal - would have been represented by its top leaders, including party patriarch Lalu Prasad Yadav.

On Monday, Ms Banerjee said she had prior commitments. "I am not aware about this (meeting). I have scheduled a seven-day programme in north Bengal... had I known, I would have surely gone for it..."

READ | "Not Aware": Mamata Banerjee To Skip Next INDIA Bloc Meet

In her case, sources had said there might have been no representative from the Trinamool at all.

After the Bengal leader's "not aware" comment, the Congress seemed to backtrack a little; party leader Jairam Ramesh called the December 6 event an "informal meet". That phrase was used again this afternoon, with sources telling NDTV a "formal meeting" will be scheduled for December 18 or 19.

READ | Congress, Having Lost 3 States, Calls INDIA Meet On Wednesday: Sources

The Congress has received flak from allies in the build-up to last month's Assembly polls, not just over the seat-sharing squabbles but also over its insistence that prep work for next year's general election - the primary reason the INDIA bloc was formed - be put on hold till it was free to lead the planning.

The last INDIA meeting was in end-August in Mumbai and the next (likely this month) was to have been called by the Congress. Failure to do so had invited a jab from Nitish Kumar, who said he had been "... pushing them forward in (the) INDIA alliance but, of late, there has not been much progress...."

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