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Finding itself on a weak wicket, Congress desperately looking for partners

Wednesday, 22 January 2014 - 7:32am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
  • PTI

Facing one of the toughest electoral battles, the Congress party is desperately searching for allies ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. “The strategy is not only to get in more allies to strengthen the coalition, but also to make sure the regional parties do not switch over to the NDA,” a senior Congress leader told dna

Defence minister AK Antony led panel on pre-poll alliance set up a year ago woke up recently following the party’s dismal performance in the recent assembly polls to initiate talks on future alliances. In a letter to all general secretaries, the panel asked for a list of parties that the various state party units could potentially tie up with for the Lok Sabha election.

Sources within the party said besides the Antony panel, host of leaders have been asked to negotiate with other parties.

At the Shimla conclave in 2003, Congress party did a U-turn on its earlier stand of “going alone” and appealed to like-minded parties to join hands in the name of combating communalism to oust the NDA. It succeeded to bring together 18 political parties to form United Progressive Alliance (UPA). But since then Congress has lost 10 allies, most important of them the DMK, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Hyderabad-based Majlis Itihad-ul-Muslimeen.

Even though in a major development the Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, also member of Congress campaign committee met the DMK president M Karunanidhi last week, party sources said a channel has been working to warm up to the AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa as well.

Sources said the party has tasked Buta Singh to build contact with the AIADMK chief. He has also been in touch with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati. “We may not be able to stitch an electoral alliance, but there are other ways of helping each other, either in a friendly fight or to keep options open in a post-poll situation,” the source said.

Earlier, Azad obliged the TMC chief Mamata Banerjee by scrapping branch of the AIIMS sanctioned to Raiganj in the constituency of Congress MP Deepa Dasmunshi. Meanwhile, prospects of the Congress entering into an electoral alliance in Bihar with the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad in the Lok Sabha elections are also bright, but there was still no consensus on engaging with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party. In Bihar Congress had won just two seats, including that of Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar in the 2009 elections when it contested on its own while the RJD’s strength also fell to just four seats. In contrast, the RJD-led alliance in Bihar was able to corner 29 of the 40 seats in the earlier 2004 elections.

Amid reports of Congress’ dilemma over choosing between RJD and JD(U) as alliance partner in Bihar for the general elections, LJP president Ramvilas Paswan on Tuesday said his party has left the decision to the Congress. “LJP has left the decision on alliance to Congress and will go with it wherever it goes,” Paswan told reporters making his party’s stand clear. On a question about whether he would side with Lalu Prasad’s RJD or Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), he said “I have left this to the Congress.”

Paswan, however, said he had suggested Congress to take a decision on the alliance by the end of January to allow enough time for preparation for the elections.

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