Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut Tuesday said that Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress will contest the Lok Sabha election together.

Raut’s comments came ahead of the upcoming INDIA alliance meeting that was scheduled tomorrow, and amidst reports of divisions in the alliance came to the fore.

Raut said that the INDIA alliance meeting was not called in a hurry and was being planned before the declaration of the results of the assembly election.

He said, “This meeting was not called in a hurry. Even before the declaration of election results, this meeting was being planned. Mallikarjun Kharge spoke to Uddhav Thackeray about the meeting two days before the election results were announced. Uddhav Thackeray will reach Delhi tomorrow and take part in the meeting.

“We, the Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar-led NCP and Congress are going to contest the election together (in Maharashtra). BJP has strength has not increased, the break Shiv Sena, NCP and other parties. They want to make themselves capable by breaking others. But people of Maharashtra think differently than the people in other states,” said Sanjay Raut.

Earlier, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday that she was “not aware” of any such meeting.

While addressing the media on Monday, the West Bengal CM said that her party was unaware that the INDIA grouping is planning to hold a sitting in New Delhi. “I don`t know, I have no information so I kept a programme in North Bengal…If we had the information, we wouldn`t have scheduled those programmes. We would have definitely gone (for the meeting), but we have not received any information,” the TMC chief said.

Also read: `Everyone is together`: Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi rebuts reports of divisions in INDIA alliance

Ahead of the next meeting, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge had dialled his alliance partners and invited them to converge. Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar faction) leader Supriya Sule gave a hint after the Mumbai meeting that the next meeting will be held in the national capital.

Seat sharing for the Lok Sabha polls, which are just four to five months away, is likely to be at the top of the agenda. The next INDIA bloc meeting would also be crucial for Congress, particularly as the party lost Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, the Hindi heartland states that send a large number of members to the Parliament.

However, the Congress could find the going tough in this meeting, with key ally Samajwadi Party having struck a beligerent tone against the Congress in the assembly elections. SP boss Akhilesh Yadav had accused the Congress of betraying the SP by not giving it tickets to contest in a potential alliance with the Congress in MP.

The Congress now desperately needs the alliance to take off if it harbours any hope of giving Narendra Modi and the BJP competition in the 2024 election.

INDIA or `Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance` is a group of 28 opposition parties, including the Congress.

The first meeting of the joint opposition convened in Patna on June 23 and the second meeting was held in Bengaluru on July 17-18. The third meeting happened in Mumbai during August 31-September 1.

In the Mumbai meeting, the opposition parties adopted resolutions to collectively contest the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections while announcing that seat-sharing arrangements would be finalized as soon as possible through a spirit of give-and-take. (With inputs from agencies)

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