The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heartland split heartens Cong

New Delhi/Lucknow, Aug. 30: The fall of the BJP-BSP coalition government has emboldened the Congress leadership as it prepares for Assembly elections in four party-ruled states.

“The collapse of the alliance in Uttar Pradesh will help the Congress as we are certain about one thing — BSP leader Mayavati will not campaign for the BJP among Dalits as she did during last December’s poll in Gujarat,” a senior party leader said.

The implications of the BJP-BSP split on the Congress-BJP duel in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Rajasthan were discussed at Thursday’s working committee meeting convened by party chief Sonia Gandhi at short notice.

The party feels the split will help it, especially in Delhi and Rajasthan where the BJP and Congress are neck-and-neck. Had Mayavati campaigned for the BJP there, she could have tilted the scales in its favour.

The Congress does not think the BSP leader would have campaigned for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for it would fielded its own candidates there. Thus the Congress sees no reason to formally start a dialogue with Mayavati, though the BSP option will be kept open for next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

Congress general secretary Ambika Soni, in charge of party affairs in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, reportedly said at the meeting that the party did not need the BSP’s help in these states. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh and his Chhattisgarh counterpart, Ajit Jogi, share her assessment.

The BSP factor will have to be taken into account when the Congress devises its Lok Sabha strategy, especially in Uttar Pradesh. Even so, the party will not act in haste as long as the BSP and BJP attack each other.

The Congress feels Mayavati and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav are “equally unreliable partners in any alliance. So, why should we take the initiative for a tie-up when there is enough time before the parliamentary elections”'

The party does not want to rule out the BSP option and is thus undecided on joining the government. Mulayam’s decision to form a council of ministers only after seeking a confidence vote on September 2 has given state Congress MLAs a breather.

Puzzled by the working committee’s silence on joining the Mulayam government, the legislators have rushed to Delhi to plead with Sonia that they should be allowed to share power.

“Only by joining the government can we do something for our constituents and rejuvenate the party in the state,” said MLA Pradeep Mathur, who is leading the campaign for joining the Mulayam government.

Mathur and four MLAs met Sonia three days ago and were told the working committee would decide. After the committee authorised Sonia to take a decision, Mathur has taken the entire state Congress legislature party to Delhi to pressure her.

Congress MLAs are desperate to become ministers and share power, but they find some of their own national and state leaders questioning the wisdom of such a move.

Leaders such as former state party chief Salman Khursheed oppose sharing power because it would mean Mulayam playing the role of the dominant partner ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

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