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Congress Non-Committal Over Alliance With Key Regional Outfit Which Trounced Modi’s BJP

© AP Photo / Bikas DasTrinamool Congress party leader and Chief Minister of West Bengal state Mamata Banerjee.
Trinamool Congress party leader and Chief Minister of West Bengal state Mamata Banerjee. - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.07.2021
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Many Indian outfits have been advocating that they join forces to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The idea of 'opposition unity' is based on the fact that the BJP commands a federal vote share of just over 30 percent, and the streamlining of “anti-BJP” votes under one banner would cause the BJP to lose power.
A day after India's main opposition outfits held a crucial meeting to synchronise their strategies against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whether regional outfit Trinamool Congress should be included in a united opposition alliance remains a big question. Being the biggest opposition outfit, Congress holds a decisive say on the inclusion of any outfit in a federal opposition alliance.
"We can't talk about an alliance [with Trinamool] at this stage. What's important is that the opposition outfits are together on major issues against the Modi government," veteran parliamentarian and Congress spokesman, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, said on Thursday when asked whether Trinamool and Congress would join forces.
Singhvi has been nominated for the Indian parliament's upper house with the backing of Trinamool Congress.
Federal parliamentarians from Trinamool Congress, led by the chief of West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee, skipped the meeting of major opposition parties on Wednesday. Since Banerjee is a state chief, she is not part of the federal parliamentary delegation but she is on a five-day visit to Delhi, amid the ongoing 'Monsoon session'.
Later in the day, Banerjee separately met Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her residence, according to pictures shared by Congress and Trinamool Congress. The meeting was also confirmed by Banerjee.
​Banerjee said after the meeting that the question of “opposition unity” was discussed during the meeting, which was also attended by Rahul Gandhi, another key opposition leader.
"It was a very good and positive meeting. A positive result should come of it soon," said Banerjee, when asked whether the opposition parties would unite in the run-up to the 2024 federal elections.
Opposition unity among parties opposed to the BJP has so far remained a pipedream, in spite of the concept having been floated in opposition circles before the 2019 federal election. Critics of Congress within opposition parties argue that the main federal opposition is not wholeheartedly backing the idea as it fears ceding political space to regional and smaller national-level parties.
On their part, Congress leaders say that being the only opposition outfit with a countrywide base, it must have a dominant say in any alliance against the BJP.
Despite having a political base confined to West Bengal, Trinamool Congress is the third-biggest outfit in the Indian Parliament, having won 22 seats in the 2019 federal elections. The Congress, on the other hand, managed to win 52 seats in the federal election, despite having a presence throughout all India.
The political stature of Trinamool was given a major impetus after it managed to retain the state of West Bengal in elections this year, against the backdrop of aggressive campaigning by the BJP, including from Prime Minister Modi.
Before the state election, the seat-sharing talks between Congress and the Trinamool broke down because of the federal opposition party’s leadership demanding that it be allowed to field more of its candidates, a proposal rejected by Mamata.
In the election results, Congress, which contested the election with other outfits, drew a blank. The BJP, on the other hand, managed to make significant inroads in the eastern Indian state, and won 74 seats out of the 294-member legislative assembly (state parliament).
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