The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong second thoughts on twin allies

New Delhi, Oct. 27: The Congress leadership is having serious doubts about its stand on statements by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, who were till recently shortlisted as potential allies for the next Lok Sabha polls.

Both Mulayam Singh, who has persistently spoken about his Samajwadi Party’s intention to go it alone in the polls, and Pawar, who has suddenly raked up Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, have prime ministerial ambitions. As such, the Congress leadership has interpreted their statements as moves to revive a third front at the national level.

There is no doubt in the Congress that Mulayam Singh has changed his attitude towards the party once again after becoming the chief minister. Even the pro-Mulayam Singh sections in the Congress concede this.

The leadership also suspects that leaders like Pawar might be active behind the scenes in persuading other potential allies in a Congress-led front — such as DMK leader M. Karunanidhi, Janata Dal (S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav — against getting close to the Congress.

Last month, the DMK, an NDA constituent, was widely believed to have deferred making a first statement on its presumed intentions of teaming up with the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls. With many former constituents of the third front reviving the idea of the combine, the Congress is also beginning to wonder whether overtures to non-BJP parties for a Congress-led coalition made from its Shimla brainstorming session in July were premature.

But the leadership has not yet made an unambiguous call for a Congress-led alliance. The political document of the Shimla session is yet to see the light of day, though the other documents have been published. Sources in the party maintained that the document is “yet to be finalised”.

The Congress leadership is also inclined to believe that Mulayam Singh and Pawar are trying to wreck the party’s prospects in the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram. Pawar is being seen as helping the BJP by raising Sonia’s foreign origin at this juncture.

Mulayam Singh’s stated resolve to put up several candidates in Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh would help the BJP and not the Congress. While the NCP leader’s backing of V.C. Shukla is harming the Congress in Chhattisgarh, the Samajwadi chief is virtually trying a similar strategy in the other states, conceded Congress leaders.

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