"We have to first come as winners": Kharge on I.N.D.I.A.’s PM candidate

The Congress president emphasised the need for unity and victory before discussing leadership roles, and underlined that discussions on seat sharing took centrestage

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge (photo: Congress)
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge (photo: Congress)
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NH Political Bureau

At today's meeting of leaders of the 28 parties making up the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance—or INDIA—Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge emphasised the need for unity and victory at the 2024 general elections, before leadership roles and prime ministerial candidates might be discussed.

Kharge, addressing the media on the topic of a 'prime ministerial face' being mooted at this, the fourth meeting of the INDIA bloc, stated that the focus should be on winning the elections first.

"We have to first come as winners. If we don't have MPs, what is the use of projecting a PM?" he asked.

Noting that 28 parties had participated in the fourth meeting of the INDIA bloc, Kharge added, "All parties have spoken in one voice on how the alliance should function in the future.”

Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal said that the main focus of the meeting was seat sharing agreements in the different states.

"It was a very successful, fruitful meeting," Venugopal said. "Everybody opened their mind and spoke. There was a little criticism here and there (too) because we are 25–26 parties. (But) the main focus was to finalise the seat sharing."

"A lot many things were discussed but everything cannot be decided today itself," he continued, adding, "Seat sharing discussions should be started immediately—that is what was discussed."

RJD chief Lalu Parasad Yadav (right), despite poor health, attended the meeting and is seen here with Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge (photo courtesy INC)
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is considered one of the main the architects of the INDIA bloc, attended the meeting. He was accompanied by his deputy, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav (photo courtesy INC)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress (right, mid distance), preceded by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi at the meeting (photo: INC)
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar (left) and Mallikarjun Kharge share an animated discussion, grasping each other by the hands during the meeting (photo courtesy Indian National Congress)
DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin (middle) with Sonia Gandhi (photo courtesy Indian National Congress)
Jammu and Kashmir-based parties the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) attended the meeting. Seen here is former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah (pictured left) on the Conference with Congress leader Sonia  Gandhi. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti also attended (photo courtesy the Indian National Congress)
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury (right) talking to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi (photo courtesy the Indian National Congress)
INDIA alliance party leaders meet in Delhi on 19 December 2023 (photo courtesy the Indian National Congress)

Venugopal mentioned that local leaders would initiate talks on seat sharing in each state, with senior leaders of the INDIA bloc intervening if differences persisted.

Sources revealed that Mamata Banerjee, the chief of Trinamool Congress, suggested Kharge as a suitable prime ministerial candidate during the meeting. However, Banerjee stressed that the actual decision should be made after achieving victory in the 2024 election.

Regarding Mamata Banerjee's reported suggestion of Kharge as the prime ministerial face, MDMK MP Vaiko mentioned that there was no opposition to the idea among the participants.

"UP, Telangana seat-sharing issues will be resolved. We will try to see how Punjab and Delhi issues can also be resolved. There was no opposition to that suggestion (of) Mallikarjun Kharge for PM face," added Vaiko.

JMM MP Mahua Maji also highlighted that the main discussions at this meeting centred on seat sharing, with some leaders advocating for a resolution before January 1.

She confirmed discussions on a potential prime ministerial candidate did take place, but also added her agreement with Kharge, that no final decision could be made until after winning the elections.

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