DC Edit | If India bloc has a future, it lies in Congress hands

Ms Banerjee may have already succeeded in finding an acceptable personality to be the INDIA chairperson in Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge

The double whammy the Congress suffered in the space of one day in which two INDIA allies indicated they wished to go it alone in West Bengal and Punjab represents just the start of an existential crisis for the ambitious anti-BJP front.

Nominally the head of the bloc of nearly 30 parties, after having compromised on its former president not being the consensus choice to chair alliance meetings, it is up to the Congress now to lump it or leave it so far as the INDIA bloc is concerned.

Once the ruling party of the country in the first few decades after Independence, the Congress has come down considerably from its heyday. The alliance will now depend on how much the Congress is willing to give up by way of alliance seats in states in which it has virtually no presence like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, and even Delhi, to stake a bigger claim in states in which it has a strong presence and high vote-share.

It may take a lot of hard bargaining even if the Congress accepts that it must give in to the demands of powerful regional players like the TMC in Bengal, the SP in UP, the JD(U) in Bihar, the NCP and Shiv Sena (Uddhav) faction in Maharashtra and the DMK in Tamil Nadu.

It is no secret that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is a political player who will play hardball in alliance and coalition politics. She may not be the easiest person to handle in power games and yet her point of view matters and must be heard out if the Opposition front is to remain united in their promised fight against the ruling BJP-NDA.

Ms Banerjee may have already succeeded in finding an acceptable personality to be the INDIA chairperson in Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, which was her way to keep the Gandhi family scion out of a crucial coordinating role. Her take-it-or-leave-it proposal of two seats for the Congress in Bengal was the end point rather than the beginning of tackling complexities of seat sharing.

The Congress or its leader helming the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra may have upset Ms Banerjee in not taking her into confidence about the yatra going through West Bengal. All the signs of a classic ego clash were present right there and it may well have tipped the scales for Ms Banerjee having her say about the alliance with a degree of finality.

The raison d’etre of cobbling together such an all-encompassing umbrella alliance was to give the front the best chance of gaining power at the Centre by toppling the BJP-NDA. Those would lie in picking a candidate from a party from the alliance with the chance of winning.

If the Congress does not accept the basic principle and scale down demands according to the winnability factor and in proportion to its strengths and weaknesses in various states, the alliance itself might be doomed to fail. The party’s good vibes with a party like DMK might give it more seats than it might deserve in Tamil Nadu, but the Congress is not on the same kind of wicket with others in the alliance. The ball is in the Congress court.

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