The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia takes alliance plunge

Mumbai/Delhi, Dec. 27: Congress president Sonia Gandhi today disclosed that her party has begun discussions on alliances and spoke extensively on development, tapping what the BJP considers the secrets of its success.

“The process of discussions on forming an alliance with like-minded parties has already begun. The Congress is running coalition governments not only in Maharashtra but other states as well,” she told a big rally at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai.

Sonia, who was earlier reluctant to go out of her way to court allies, said: “I will try my utmost to forge an alliance to defeat the BJP-led coalition.”

But “unlike the BJP — which formed alliances for snatching power” — her party, she added, would take along those who were ideological allies.

Congress sources in Delhi said the party, besides opening channels of communication with the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has started secret talks with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The Congress, they added, expects BSP chief Mayavati to come up with proposals for seat sharing in Uttar Pradesh.

The sources said the Congress is also looking to an understanding with the BSP in states like Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress is already in talks with smaller parties such as the CPI, the MIM and the Telengana Rashtra Samiti.

Flanked by Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and party leaders like Shivraj Patil and Gurudas Kamat, the Congress president emphasised that talks with likely partners were on and bearing fruit.

Although the NCP, with whom Shinde has been authorised to hold consultations, held a kabaddi competition bang in front of where the Congress rally was being held, its chief Sharad Pawar has said his party had no problem any more with Sonia’s foreign origin. “These issues have to be sidelined in the greater interest of the party and the country,” Pawar had said recently at a party meeting.

At her first public meeting since her party’s reverses in the Assembly polls, Sonia toed the BJP’s line by focusing on development. The BJP had concentrated on development in its campaign for the Assembly elections.

“If voted to power, our priority would be development and to tackle the issue of unemployment,” she said and also stressed on issues like electricity, drinking water, education and health. Inflation, she added, has “skyrocketed, making it difficult for the common man to make both ends meet”.

Sonia urged her party workers not to lose heart after the defeat in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. “Victory and loss are part of polls,” she said. “But we have to march ahead and only those who do not lose their heart reach the destination.”

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