The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sink or swim, Cong will keep to Left

New Delhi, Nov. 14: Manmohan Singh may have voiced his disquiet with coalition politics but the Congress is unlikely to reopen in the near future the debate on merits and demerits of “alliances”.

Party sources said when the All India Congress Committee meets here on November 17, a resolution would dwell at length on how coalition politics was there to stay.

The omnibus document, they added, would also highlight how the Prime Minister and party chief Sonia Gandhi had “successfully” steered the first Congress-led coalition at the Centre through the “compulsions and challenges” of multi-party rule.

The sources said there could be a reference to how the Congress viewed its allies, especially the Left — despite the disagreements over the nuclear deal and economic reform.

Sonia’s assessment, they said, was it would be “foolhardy” to dump the Left and seek other props because except for Lalu Prasad, the other regional satraps had done business with the BJP and could partner it again despite their “secular” pronouncements.

At the height of the standoff with the Left, a section in the Congress said the government should consider alternatives like Mayavati’s BSP and Naveen Patnaik’s BJD if things worsened.

The proponents of this line were, however, jolted when Mayavati, sensing how vulnerable the Congress was, demanded that the Centre grant her a Rs 80,000-crore package to replenish Uttar Pradesh’s coffers.

“She will not see beyond short-term demands like getting cash packages and withdrawing CBI cases against her,” a Congress source said. “The BSP has made it clear that ideology is not its consideration so we have to be careful while thinking of a long-term relationship with the party.”

The source pointed to Mayavati’s “unpredictability”, saying she had allowed the BJP to prop her up as chief minister thrice and might have no “qualms” joining a BJP-led government if offered the post of deputy Prime Minister in charge of law-enforcement agencies.

The Congress is sceptical about Mamata Banerjee, too. Even her backers wonder why the Trinamul Congress has still not officially pulled out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

“Come what may, the Congress and the Left are the only political entities which will have no understanding with the BJP, now and in the future,” a Congress minister said.

CPI salvo

The CPI today accused the Prime Minister of showing “disrespect to Parliament” by planning two foreign trips during the winter session. Singh is to visit Singapore and Uganda.

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