Heartland blow may see Cong climb down on 2024 seat deal

With AAP chief Kejriwal backing Cong president Kharge as INDIA bloc’s PM face and ex-Haryana CM Hooda green signalling INLD’s inclusion in the bloc, decks have been cleared for seat sharing among alliance partners in Haryana, Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh, writes Pawan Kumar Bansal

Although the total number of MPs the states of Haryana and Punjab and the union territories of Delhi and Chandigarh send to the Lok Sabha is only 31, a great significance is being attached to the performance of INDIA bloc constituents in these states. If the on-going parleys for seat adjustments fructify, these parties can pose a serious challenge to the BJP. Presently, the Indian bloc constituents have eight seats in Punjab, with Congress having seven members and AAP just one. The Chandigarh seat is represented by Kiran Kher of the BJP, and in Haryana, the BJP holds all ten seats in the Lok Sabha. In the last elections, all ten Congress candidates, including Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his son Deepender Hooda, lost elections to BJP candidates. This time also, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, at a recent rally in Haryana, appealed to people to gift ten lotus flowers to the party, implying to have the BJP members elected on all 10 seats.

In Delhi, all seven Lok Sabha seats were won by the BJP, although the state is ruled by the Aam Aadmi Party, which accuses the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi of creating troubles in its smooth functioning at the instance of the Centre.

According to political analysts, if seat-sharing among INDIA bloc partners succeeds, it will be a win-win situation for the alliance partners, Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and  INLD with prospects of their candidates’ victories brightening, and in reciprocal gesture, Congress is likely to accommodate AAP  in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and M.P.

For the NDA leadership, it was music to its ears when at a rally in Bathinda district, Arvind Kejriwal exhorted people of Punjab to help his party win all 13 seats in Punjab and one in Chandigarh. In Punjab, the main challenge to the Aam Aadmi Party does not come from either the BJP or the Akali Dal led by Sukhbir Badal, but from the Congress.

It is interesting to mention here that, in a recent rally, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann also attacked the Congress, accusing it and the SAD leaders of promoting corruption and nepotism. The Punjab unit of Congress is also opposing any alliance with AAP for Lok Sabha elections, and its leaders are attacking the functioning of Bhagwant Maan-led Punjab Government, though they have been advised not to air their views publicly.

Although at the rally, Kejriwal had made it clear that Congress was also among AAP’s rivals in Punjab, alleging that the Akalis and Congress both are opposing his party, it is said that this is only for public consumption. When leaders of both the parties sit at the table, adjustments will be made, as both have realized the ground realities of the power game, especially after the landslide victory of BJP in the just-concluded elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chattisgarh state assemblies. Congress had to pay a heavy price for not accommodating members of the INDIA Alliance, particularly in MP, where Congress leader Kamal Nath not only denied half a dozen seats to Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav demanded by the latter but also made loose comments about him. Now, the Congress has  realized that it can win only if they remain united; otherwise, there is sure defeat as they have to face a challenge from Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who had applied the social engineering formula while forming governments in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and M.P. They are also making the Ram Mandir temple inauguration issue a national event to exploit people’s religious sentiments.

In Haryana, Congress was trounced on all the 10 Lok Sabha seats with even former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his son Deepender Hooda biting the dust in the Jatland seats of Sonipat and Rohtak, respectively.

Hitherto, Hooda was opposing the inclusion of I.N.L.D and AAP in the alliance, claiming that Congress was capable of fighting all the seats alone. But now, he has softened his stand, reportedly at the instance of the top party leadership.

He told newsmen at Chandigarh that although his party was capable of contesting all ten seats, he was not opposed to INLD joining the alliance. According to the formula being chalked out at the instance of Nitish Kumar, Congress will contest on seven seats, while leaving the remaining three for the INLD, AAP or any other partner.

Political  Analyst Dr. Ramesh Madaan,  while talking to Tehelka  underlined open communication and coordination, and defined common goals and flexibility in seat allocation as crucial factors in navigating the complexities of contemporary politics and ensuring the effectiveness of political alliance in the ensuing Lok Sabha Elections, 2024.