The Telegraph
Friday , April 19 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Solo fight on Congress mind for 2014

New Delhi, April 18: The Congress leadership is contemplating going it alone in the 2014 election — an idea that bears Rahul Gandhi’s stamp of approval.

The party’s dilemma is now restricted to Maharashtra and Kerala where it has strong alliances. The dominant view in the Congress is that it should contest all seats in Maharashtra, leaving the option open for a coalition with Sharad Pawar’s NCP after the poll.

Although no final decision has been taken yet, the alliance in Kerala with the Indian Union Muslim League and the Kerala Congress (Mani) is expected to remain intact in an exception.

A committee on alliances set up by Sonia Gandhi and headed by A.K. Antony has not met for months after its first meeting as it knows there is little to discuss. However, all other election-related committees have been meeting regularly and finalising reports.

The Antony committee was expected to hunt for new allies but the leadership is now moving in reverse gear on this issue.

It is now almost certain that the Congress will have no pre-poll alliance in Kashmir, where its ally the National Conference is exploring options of quitting the UPA.

The Congress leadership has discussed the possibility of realigning with the Trinamul Congress in Bengal and unanimously rejected it.

A member of the Rahul Gandhi-led election management committee told The Telegraph: “We will fight all the seats in Bengal without any alliance.”

The party does not expect any dramatic gains in Bengal by fighting alone but it knows a triangular contest will bolster the Left’s chances, which under no circumstance would support Narendra Modi after the election.

A senior leader said: “We didn’t gain much by aligning with Mamata Banerjee. She jumped from one to 19. If we fight alone, we will be around the same number that we are now: six, or maybe one or two less. But we are not interested in helping a potential BJP ally at any cost.”

In Tamil Nadu, the chances of an alliance with the DMK or the AIADMK are bleak. Although the party’s own condition is not encouraging, Rahul is said to be supportive of the idea of contesting all the seats alone to expand the party’s base in the southern state.

In Andhra Pradesh, too, the party is gearing up to fight alone without having any understanding with either the TRS or Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress.

Bihar is another state where there is no unanimity among senior leaders as one section favours an alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP. But so far, sources say, the decision is to go it alone.

This decision, however, could be reviewed later if the Janata Dal (United) quits the NDA, dramatically altering the electoral dynamics of the state. “Even this possibility is remote,” said a senior leader, revealing that so far there has been no indication of any understanding with either Lalu Prasad or Nitish Kumar.

In Jharkhand, the Congress is going to contest alone, without having any understanding with either Shibu Soren’s JMM or Babulal Marandi’s JVP.

Alliances in states like Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Odisha, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi are out of question.

In a way, the UPA will cease to exist before the 2014 election and efforts to sew up a coalition will be a post-result exercise.

The UPA has lost a number of allies since its formation in 2004. Parties like the DMK, Trinamul Congress, MDMK, PMK, JMM, PDP, RJD, LJP, RPI and the AIMIM have parted ways over the years citing some reason or the other.