Should we expect a prime ministerial 'face' from the 3rd I.N.D.I.A meet on 31 August?

Unveiling a common logo, appointment of a convenor, and social media resource pooling on the cards

I.N.D.I.A alliance (photo: DW)
I.N.D.I.A alliance (photo: DW)

NH Political Bureau

Speculation has been rife about a 'prime ministerial' face from the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) at their meet in Mumbai on August 31 and September 1.

Supporters of both the Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee predictably rooted for their party leaders when asked questions by the press. Supporters of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have been vociferous too.

However, Kumar in Patna and Sharad Pawar in Mumbai both played down the hype, saying that all they would be doing this week would be to choose a convenor and form sub-committees, perhaps even state-wise, so that seat sharing arrangements could get underway at the earliest.

This was essential because there are some parties represented in the INDIA bloc that are rivals to each other in their respective states — for example, the Communist parties, the Indian National Congress and the TMC in Bengal; the AAP and the Congress in Delhi; the Congress and the Communists in Kerala; and so on.

At a press conference ahead of the meet today, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party and Uddhav Thackeray of Shiv Sena (UBT) said the alliance had come together to usher change within the country and nothing was going to stop them from doing so. While they did not say it in as many words, they implied a prime ministerial face at this stage was premature and unnecessary.

On the ground in Mumbai, with nearly 80 prominent political leaders from 26 parties and half a dozen chief ministers slated to attend, including Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and former party presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, security arrangements for the entire contingent are proving a headache to the authorities.

Nearly 200 rooms have been booked at a well-known hotel for the leaders and their staff — it will be the venue for all the discussions, and the delegates are unlikely to leave the premises in search of entertainment, as arrangements have been made within the hotel.

Uddhav Thackeray is hosting a dinner there today, 31 August, and Sharad Pawar a lunch tomorrow.

The INDIA block will set up a 11-member coordination committee which is expected to be the main powerhouse of the alliance.

Sub-committees looking at publicity campaigns and social media content and other issues will report to this main committee — but what is significant and guaranteed to send the BJP’s IT cell into a frenzy is that all the parties in the alliance are expected to pool their social media resources.

The professionals heading these functions for each party are expected to coordinate their strategies so as to overcome the BJP’s fake narratives, which have been damaging to almost all the parties in the alliance. The social media committees will not merely create content or tag other parties, but will also alert each other to false propaganda against their members.

Meanwhile, Mumbai has been flooded with hoardings carrying the slogan “Judega INDIA, jeetega Bharat (INDIA will come together and heal, India will triumph)” that has already upset many BJP leaders, who are nevertheless unable to do much as—with rare foresight—the Maha Vikas Aghadi allies this time made sure they had all the permissions and had paid up all the fees, so it was impossible for the government to take much action against them.

Hoardings are not allowed to mushroom in Mumbai except with express permissions; but with prominent leaders of all three wings of the MVA having planned ahead and taken municipal and police authorities into confidence, the hoardings will stay until the meet is over. Whereupon the MVA will bring them down themselves.

The first to arrive for the meet in Mumbai were Lalu Prasad Yadav and his son Tejashwi Yadav; but other leaders will be arriving all through today, as the meet will open with the unveiling of a common logo for the alliance after 6pm. Rahul Gandhi will be addressing public meetings in Mysore through the day, but is expected to arrive in time for the unveiling.

A new participant is likely to be Jayant Chowdhury of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, who today announced he was heading for Mumbai and sees no reason to join the National Democratic Alliance, despite the pressure he seems to have under from the BJP regime.

Some local Congress leaders said they are expecting three more regional parties from Mumbai, though they were tight-lipped about their identities.

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