YS Sharmila
YS Sharmila joins Congress

As Lok Sabha Polls 2024 inch closer and pressure mounts from INDIA bloc to finalize seat-sharing, Congress on Thursday announced that it might restrict itself to contesting 255 Lok Sabha seats in order to accommodate its alliance partners from the Opposition.

The announcement came from Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge after a meeting held on Thursday, attended by AICC general secretaries, state Congress unit presidents, and CLP leaders, along with MP Rahul Gandhi. At the meeting, the senior Congress leadership has reportedly assured state units that seat sharing talks would begin soon, with Congress focussing on 255 Lok Sabha seats in the general elections scheduled for April-May this year. Notably, Congress had contested 421 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections.

The announcement comes against the backdrop of mounting pressure within the INDIA alliance where regional parties and leaders are firm on what they expect in terms of seat-sharing. Looking at the past Lok Sabha polls and recent assembly elections, Congress may have to part with a dominant role in states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Maharashtra and even Punjab.

Only Trinamool Congress can teach BJP a lesson: Mamata Banerjee

Asserting its dominance in regional politics, Trinamool Congress has made it clear that it will not give any space or make way for Congress in the state beyond a few seats. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee made her stance ample clear recently, "INDIA alliance will be present in entire India and in Bengal the Trinamool Congress will fight. In Bengal, it is only the Trinamool Congress that can teach the BJP a lesson. It can show the entire country the path to victory, not any other party." The statement did not go well with Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who said Congress was not at the mercy of any one political outfit. Reportedly, at the meeting, the Congress has decided to hold state-wise talks with INDIA bloc parties to fork out details of seat sharing.

YS Sharmila joins Congress, ruffles feathers

Meanwhile, in a politically significant development, Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's sister YS Sharmila joins the Congress. She has also merged her YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP) which is likely to have a lot of impact on the state politics. Especially for the ruling YSRCP as the siblings take on each other publicly in the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. There are reports of the ruling YSRCP party being unsettled with the possibility of their disgruntled MLAs joining Congress if approached by Sharmila.

Nitish Kumar is the INDIA bloc convener

Rahul Gandhi with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
Representative imageIANS

Meanwhile, during a virtual meeting on Wednesday, the INDIA alliance is said to have decided on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as its national convener. The move is being hailed as a strategic one as it is likely to position the alliance as the one united in tackling the BJP. The decision is rumored to be strongly backed by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and party president Mallikarjun Kharge. With Rahul Gandhi embarking on the all important- political yatra, the decision is to keep Bihar CM happy. However, if the buzz in political corridors is anything to believe, the decision does not mean Yadav will be the Prime Ministerial face of the alliance. The formal announcement of the decision is still pending.

Rahul Gandhi led march renamed to Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra

Meanwhile, the Congress has renamed the upcoming yatra led by Rahul Gandhi from Manipur to Mumbai. The yatra scheduled to begin on January 14 will be called Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra and aims at being the politically mobilization tool before the 2024 Parliamentary elections. The decision was taken at the party meeting comprising general secretaries, state chiefs and party chief ministers. With Arunachal Pradesh added to the itinerary, the yatra will now span 15 states and cover a distance of 6713 kilometers. With 2024 elections being a defining one for India, all the national and religious parties will leave no stone unturned to make their way to the Parliament.