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  Opinion   Edit  14 Jan 2024  AA Edit | Differences persist but INDIA must move on towards unity

AA Edit | Differences persist but INDIA must move on towards unity

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jan 15, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Jan 15, 2024, 12:05 am IST

INDIA to work deeper to understand and reconcile the competing interests of the alliance partners ahead of a tough deadline.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK leader Tiruchi Siva, CPI General Secretary D. Raja and others during a protest of Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) at Jantar Mantar. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)
 Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK leader Tiruchi Siva, CPI General Secretary D. Raja and others during a protest of Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) at Jantar Mantar. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)

The strengths and weaknesses of the INDIA bloc make themselves visible each passing day when the Opposition grouping teeters towards the general elections, which are hardly three months away. The latest instance where they were out on display was when the grouping elected Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge as its chairperson but failed to reach a consensus on Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar as its convener.

The choice of Mr Kharge reflects the ability of the alliance to realise and admit the factors of realpolitik. INDIA is a mix of interests, national and local, and most of its constituents represent regional aspirations which can at times be at variance with one another. The Congress is by far its largest member and has the wherewithal to assimilate as many opinions as available.  

Pitted against a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which is essentially composed of the BJP, a single force, with minor players as partners, the INDIA bloc ought to have the Congress on its side as its face, however unequally the power balance is tilted to the saffron side now. Mr Kharge can help the alliance blunt the rival’s charge as protectors and sponsors of dynastic politics, though it is left to the Gandhi family to decide if it wanted the elected Congress president to assert himself, and design and execute the party’s election strategies.

The failure of the grouping to agree to a common name as its convener is a reflection of the deep schisms and clash of interests within it. Most partners are regional forces with tall leaders and national ambitions; they join and promote a common platform essentially to project their own interests. There are irreconcilable differences in positions in several states where the alliance partners will be vying with one another to be the major political force even when they fight the BJP. Many of them would not have even thought of a joint effort had it not been for the BJP-led Union government’s attempts to dangerously undermine federal principles and use of Central agencies to hunt down opposition politicians.

It is perfectly understandable that each one of the partners pursues its own agenda under the INDIA label. The question is whether they can put the larger interest ahead of it all. The Congress erred once when it downgraded the alliance’s main agenda and concentrated on the recently-held Assembly elections. The party’s calculation that a good show will add to its bargaining power for the Lok Sabha election went horribly wrong as it returned with a bloody nose from the electoral field. The cost the alliance paid for it was a bit high in terms of precious time that was to be used for preparing for the general election. It will be better if the parties choose to learn the lesson at the expense of the Congress, instead of learning it their own hard way.

The anointment of Mr Kharge presents the Congress with an additional challenge and opportunity. It needs to work deeper to understand and reconcile the competing interests of the alliance partners ahead of a tough deadline. It, at the same time, gives the party the moral authority to goad all the partners into working for the greater common good. It is up to the Congress and Mr Kharge to take charge of the situation.

Tags: india alliance, aa edit, 2024 lok sabha elections