Amidst signs of discord within the INDIA opposition bloc, the Trinamool Congress has underscored the importance of expeditious seat-sharing talks, establishing a collective narrative and finalising the manifesto to mount a credible challenge against the saffron camp.
A meeting of the top leaders of the INDIA bloc has been deferred to the third week of December after some of them expressed their inability to attend it due to their preoccupations.
Another meeting convened by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge at his residence in Delhi on Wednesday with the floor leaders of the INDIA constituents in Parliament will, however, go ahead according to its schedule to formulate the opposition strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
According to the TMC, the momentum built by the INDIA bloc over three successful meetings has dwindled in the last few months due to inactivity, with the Congress preoccupied with elections in three states.
TMC Lok Sabha party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay expressed concern about the negative impact of INDIA alliance partners contesting against each other in Hindi heartland states — Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh —, all of which the Congress lost to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
"The momentum created after three successful meets of the INDIA bloc has waned due to no activity in the last three months. The partners fighting against each other in these three Hindi heartland states have also sent out a wrong message," said Bandopadhyay.
With just a few months left for the Lok Sabha polls, Bandopadhyay stressed that the Congress must take the initiative to finalise seat-sharing deals in the states.
He outlined three essential steps for success, "prioritising and sealing seat-sharing deals promptly, creating a collective narrative with a unified voice, and finalising the manifesto".
The four-time TMC MP warned that delays in addressing these issues would provide an advantage to the saffron camp.
TMC MP Sougata Roy echoed these sentiments, emphasising the necessity of a 1:1 fight against the BJP through effective seat sharing.
"If we are unable to ensure a 1:1 fight, then the BJP will gain. Regarding seat sharing, the party that is strong in a respective region should get priority," he said.
The INDIA bloc has held three meetings thus far, with Patna, Bengaluru, and Mumbai serving as venues.
TMC sources indicate that party supremo Mamata Banerjee has emphasised the urgency of finalising seat-sharing deals in previous meetings.
The TMC is particularly interested in securing a seat-sharing deal with the Congress in West Bengal, as internal assessments suggest that a potential Congress-TMC alliance could win up to 36-37 seats out of the 42 in the state, a senior TMC leader said on condition of anonymity.
A TMC leader revealed that the alliance could significantly impact North Bengal, where the BJP had won seven seats in the previous election and the Purulia and Bankura Lok Sabha seats in South Bengal.
While the Congress has not revealed specific plans, Congress Working Committee member Deepa Dasmunsi welcomed TMC's proposals, emphasizing the immediate need to establish a collective narrative.
"We agree with what TMC is saying, but before any form of seat sharing, the need of the hour is a collective narrative. If this narrative is in place, then seat-sharing deals would be much easier," said Dasmunsi.
Regarding seat-sharing deals in West Bengal, Dasmunsi suggested focusing on seats won by the BJP in 2019.
"There is no need for talks on the seats that Congress and TMC had won respectively. The seat-sharing has to be for the 18 seats that BJP had won in 2019," she added.
Political analysts speculate that the TMC aims to be part of the national narrative and ensure consolidated minority votes for the TMC-Congress alliance to counter the BJP effectively.
"The TMC wants to be part of the national narrative and wants to be aligned with a national party so that the BJP can't make the 2024 Lok Sabha polls like assembly polls as it did in the 2019 parliamentary elections," said political scientist Maidul Islam.
Political scientist Suman Bhattacharya added that the TMC desires a unified national narrative to counter the BJP's attacks on various state-level issues.
"The TMC wants that there should be a collective narrative and want to play a key role in formulating it, where all the INDIA bloc partners speak in unison and there should not be any divergent views while combating the BJP.
Second, a probable TMC-Congress alliance would win at least 36-37 seats from the state," he said.