The Telegraph
Friday , November 9 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lone-ranger wish

Nov. 8: The Congress is tiptoeing around a proposal to try out a go-it-alone formula in the next Lok Sabha elections in three big states — Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

The issue is likely to come up for discussion at a closed-door meeting at Surajkund tomorrow. Congress insiders, however, cautioned that the idea of testing waters in the three big states that elect as many as 140 Lok Sabha members was far from clinched.

“There has been a feeling among Congress leaders from these states that instead of looking for allies, the Congress should stand on its own feet and see the voters’ response,” a senior AICC functionary said, ruling out any immediate plans to snap ties with UPA allies like the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party and M. Karunanidhi’s DMK.

It is believed that based on the inputs of Congress units from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, a presentation will be made on the prevailing political situation in the two states.

Several Congress leaders from these two states reportedly feel that the alliances with the NCP and the DMK were not only not working on the ground but also hampering the Congress’s growth. The final decision on a future alliance would then be left to the “collective wisdom” of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, sources said.

On Bengal, there is near-unanimity in the Congress that the party should go it alone instead of seeking a rapprochement with Mamata Banerjee.

The input from the Bengal Congress is to occupy the Opposition space in the state instead of conceding it to either the Left parties or the BJP. In the Bengal Congress’s assessment, Mamata is following in the footsteps of Mualyam Singh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh in consolidating her hold over minority votes at the expense of the Congress.

Congress leaders entrusted with preparing briefs for Friday’s Surajkund session said other “talking points” include focus on Rahul Gandhi’s future role and inputs for a “populist budget” that would be presented in February 2013.

In the Congress’ assessment, the coming budget would be the last full-length budgetary exercise before the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The Surajkund meet will also discuss the possibility of early Lok Sabha polls, though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly gone on record that the UPA will complete its term. Those in favour of an early general election point out that in 2013, polls will also be held in eight state assemblies, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where anti-Congress sentiments are said to be running high. If the Congress does badly in these states, the UPA government will be reduced to a lame-duck for the rest of the term and it is better to go to the polls earlier, they feel.

AICC general secretaries will be giving state-wise assessment of party’s prospects, based on the inputs from 70 observers who have toured a large number of Lok Sabha constituencies.

Their feedback is said to have pointed at the need for a “pro-poor, aam aadmi tilt” in UPA policies.

The Surajkund session will take a view on civil society movements and assess the potential political strengths of Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and former army chief V.K. Singh. Many Congress leaders find the party’s response to these individuals both “erratic” and ‘faulty”.