Even though the Congress lost the recent Assembly elections in the three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the debacle has not dented the grand old party’s prospects and bargaining power for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in the INDIA bloc. The results of the three states are no doubt disheartening for the Congress, but the grand old party still remains the main force against the BJP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections as it has a presence in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where the regional parties have no foothold.
The election results in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana hold major lessons for the entire Opposition bloc and specially the Congress. In all four states the voters decided to opt for a national party rather than a regional party, a factor that has gone in favour of the BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and in favour of the Congress in Telangana. Congress is in power only in Himachal Pradesh in northern India and in Jharkhand and Bihar where it is in alliance with regional partners. In the south, it is in alliance with the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu.
Congress is present in all other north Indian states where it is the main opponent of the BJP. But there is no doubt that Congress will have to contest election in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh in alliance with regional parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United), the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Samajwadi Party which are strong parties in their own states. Congress has to accept the ground reality that the regional parties are strong in these states and the Congress needs to get their support.
The Congress presents a direct threat to the BJP in North India and it will definitely give it a challenge. But the test will be when seat sharing talks begin for the states in the INDIA bloc. Dealing with the AAP and the Samajwadi Party would not be easy given the rocky relations in the last few months. The AAP, which is in power in Delhi and Punjab, will play it hard on the seats in these two states. There is also confusion in the grand Opposition INDIA bloc on the possible strategy of seat sharing with the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge who recently chaired a meeting with the INDIA bloc floor leaders in Parliament had said that the next meeting of the alliance would be held in the third week of December to chalk out the strategy for 2024 and initiate the talks for seat sharing. After the third meeting of the INDIA bloc in Mumbai on August 31 and September 1, it announced that it would form a 14 member coordination committee and 19-member Election Strategy Committee to take on the BJP in the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha elections.