The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia reaches out to allies

New Delhi, Dec. 30: After mostly talking about alliances, Sonia Gandhi today took the first visible step towards building one by reaching out to DMK leader M. Karunanidhi and CPM general secretary H.S. Surjeet.

The Congress president rang up Karunanidhi in Chennai, signalling her party’s reconciliation with the DMK. Relations froze after the puppet Chandra Shekhar government dismissed Karunanidhi in 1990 at the behest of the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi.

Sonia congratulated Karunanidhi on his decision to pull out of the BJP-led coalition as a prelude to a pre-poll alliance. She met Surjeet to underline the importance of ties with the Left.

Her initiatives came within two days of her statement that the Congress would strive to forge alliances to fight the Lok Sabha polls and within hours of the submission of the Pranab Mukherjee committee report on the Assembly poll debacle.

The committee recommended that the task of identifying potential partners for the polls and initiating talks with them should be taken up with all “deliberate speed, preferably within the month of January itself”.

It said the alliance should be comprehensive to avoid a split in anti-NDA votes and include negotiations at “multi-state, regional, state or sub-regional levels within the perspective of a national framework based on a national strategy with national objectives”.

Congress sources said Sonia has already farmed out the job of contacting prospective allies to specific leaders.

“The call to Karunanidhi came after the spadework already done by the leaders entrusted with the task of negotiating with the DMK,” they said.

The leadership intends to leave to the DMK the task of forming an anti-Jayalalithaa front in Tamil Nadu, with the Left, the MDMK and the Muslim League being the other likely partners. In Kerala, an alliance already exists.

In Karnataka, H.D. Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal splinter might be approached. Negotiations are under way with the Left, MIM and the Telengana Rashtra Samiti in Andhra Pradesh.

While Sharad Pawar is the identified ally in Maharashtra, the Congress is also prepared to accommodate the two Republican Party factions, and the PWP and the Left.

The committee has virtually plumped for Mayavati as the ally in Uttar Pradesh, but not made a formal recommendation.

Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal remains the automatic choice in Bihar and in Jharkhand, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha is the candidate.

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