The Telegraph
Monday , May 19 , 2014
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Congress toys with ‘mahajot’ option

New Delhi, May 18: Among the ideas being tossed about in a dispirited Congress keen to bolster its relevance is a “mahajot” (grand alliance), which in practical terms means forging functional ties with Trinamul, the AIADMK and other non-BJP, non-NDA groups.

There has been no official word yet from 10 Janpath on such a move, which may be seen by some as bearing out Narendra Modi’s barb about a party needing a collation to form an Opposition rather than a government.

A group of Congress seniors, however, is believed to have begun testing the waters.

Kamal Nath, who has won from Chhindwara for the ninth time, is known to have good ties with Mamata Banerjee and is said to be in touch with Trinamul. But the initial Trinamul response from Calcutta has been lukewarm, Congress sources said.

“Trinamul has 34 Lok Sabha MPs. We are capable of raising issues of national importance,” party MP Sultan Ahmed told The Telegraph, when contacted.

Other Trinamul leaders said the onus of reviving Congress-Trinamul ties lay with Sonia Gandhi.

“During the election campaign, the Congress tried to politically harm us. If any corrective measure is to be taken, it has to be done at the topmost level,” a Trinamul MP said.

A Congress lobby feels that Sonia should urge all breakaway Congress groups — such as Trinamul, the Nationalist Congress Party and the YSR Congress — and other “like-minded” parties to join forces against the BJP-led coalition.

One silver lining in its poor tally of 44, the Congress believes, is that it includes several seasoned parliamentarians and effective speakers, such as Nath, Amarinder Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Shashi Tharoor, Veerappa Moily, K.V. Thomas, Ashok Chavan, Mallikarjun Kharge, Deependra Hooda and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

Congress leaders believe that if the AIADMK, Trinamul, the Biju Janata Dal and some other parties join hands with it in Parliament, they can form a credible Opposition.

The Congress Working Committee meets tomorrow for the first time since the May 16 verdict, with the key point of interest being whether Sonia “retires” from active politics and hands the party reins over to her son.

Sonia has been suffering from poor health and, sources said, had anyway been toying with the idea of setting an example in public life by retiring from active politics in 2016, when she turns 70.

Since Rahul’s induction as number two in January 2013 at Jaipur, the party has been grappling with two power centres.

While Sonia and Rahul continue to have excellent functional ties, many All India Congress Committee general secretaries have been at loggerheads with Team Rahul members such as Jairam Ramesh, Kanishka Singh, Mohan Gopal, Deep Kaul and Sam Pitroda. The blame game has intensified since May 16.

However, Sonia is credited with the view that if Rahul is given a free hand to revamp the organisation, a “new Congress” could emerge under his leadership.

Most Congress leaders are less than enthusiastic about Rahul as the functional head of the party. They would rather have Sonia take full charge.

The buzz is that several senior working committee members, such as Janardhan Dwivedi and Ghulam Nabi Azad, have decided to speak their mind. Indications are that all the committee members may resign together to allow an organisational revamp in the near future.

There is the Priyanka Gandhi angle too. The Congress ranks are almost unanimous that Priyanka should lead the party, and even many of the leaders feel that it is high time she at least joined the party.