Buzzword: Congress divided over striking poll alliances

Buzzword: Congress divided over striking poll alliances

By Nora Chopra | 28 November, 2015
 
Congress divided over striking poll alliances
After the Congress bagged 27 seats as part of the Grand Alliance in Bihar, the party is divided over whether it should strike alliances in several poll-bound states in 2016 and 2017. A section in the party feels that if the party has to remain relevant, it should strike alliances and form coalition governments in such states. However, the “majority” view is that by striking alliances, the grand old party would lose its relevance and identity, being reduced to a small player in most of the states. This “majority” has the support of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi who, too, supports going solo.
 
Congress explores options in Bengal
A.K. Antony has warned Rahul Gandhi against having an alliance with the Left in West Bengal, saying that this will make it difficult for the Congress to take on the Communists in Kerala. But efforts are on to have some kind of understanding with either the Left or Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. While CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury is in touch with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi met Mamata Banerjee on the sidelines of Nitish Kumar’s swearing-in ceremony and chatted for nearly an hour. Later, when Mamata Banerjee was walking down the tarmac to catch her flight back to Kolkata, Rahul, who too was present at the Patna airport and had already boarded his private plane, spotted her and came out and ran to catch up with her. They talked for over 20 minutes.
 
Ansari silent on ‘intolerance’
When a journalist asked Vice-President Hamid Ansari his reaction on the alleged “intolerance” in the country, at a lunch hosted by him, he avoided giving a reply. There is speculation that this is because he is trying to avoid getting into a controversy. But there is also buzz that he is looking at a third term and may even be hoping to replace President Pranab Mukherjee, once the latter’s term gets over. Political circles say it would suit the BJP to have a liberal Muslim as the country’s President.
 
Congress hoping for ‘grand alliance’ in assam 
The Congress may not fight the Assam elections on its own as it is not sure of returning to power on its own strength because of the strong anti-incumbency against its government there. The Congress is talking to Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front. Talks had failed earlier this month, but got renewed after the Bihar election results. JDU leaders Sharad Yadav and K.C. Tyagi are mediating between the Congress and Ajmal. Tyagi is even trying to bring together the Congress, Ajmal and two-time Chief Minister and veteran Asom Gana Parishad leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. If this works out, the Congress will not have much to worry. Rahul Gandhi, Mahanta and Ajmal were present at Nitish Kumar’s swearing-in ceremony. Mahanta was the JDU ally in the V.P. Singh government and is said to be close to both Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav.
 
Rahul meets Congress leaders over U.P. strategy
Rahul Gandhi recently convened a meeting of Uttar Pradesh Congress leaders to seek their opinion on who the party should go with for the 2017 elections in the state. Madhusudan Mistry, party general secretary in charge of UP, and PCC chief Nirmal Khatri want an alliance with BSP’s Mayawati as they feel that the Congress will benefit from the “anti-incumbency” prevailing in the state against the Samajwadi Party. They also think that “Behenji” may emerge as a formidable force in 2017 with her Dalit vote bank. The other faction, led by Pramod Tiwari and former minister R.P.N. Singh, want to go with the SP, hoping for a better bargaining power with that party. Tiwari and Singh are also hoping to piggyback the SP and get a share of the latter’s Yadav-Muslim votes. The third faction, comprising Jitin Prasada and his supporters, is opposed to any alliance and wants the party to go it alone, projecting a leader from the state. Jitin Prasada is supposed to have told Rahul that elections are over a year away and “we should first strengthen our own position. That would provide us with a better bargaining power.” The lobby supporting the “go it alone formula” reminds one of 1996 when P.V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister had gone for an alliance in the UP Assembly elections with BSP founding president Kanshi Ram and “surrendered” the Congress space from which the grand old party is yet to recover in UP. Officially of course, the Congress said a week ago that they would go it alone in UP.
 
Kidwai will write memoirs
Following in the footsteps of her former colleague Makhanlal Fotedar, veteran Congress leader and former Cabinet minister, Mohsina Kidwai will publish her memoirs. She will be the first Congresswoman to do so. However, hers will be a simple autobiography, different from Fotedar’s controversial The Chinar Leaves.
 
Rahul meets Congress leaders over U.P. strategy
Rahul Gandhi recently convened a meeting of Uttar Pradesh Congress leaders to seek their opinion on who the party should go with for the 2017 elections in the state. Madhusudan Mistry, party general secretary in charge of UP, and PCC chief Nirmal Khatri want an alliance with BSP’s Mayawati as they feel that the Congress will benefit from the “anti-incumbency” prevailing in the state against the Samajwadi Party. They also think that “Behenji” may emerge as a formidable force in 2017 with her Dalit vote bank. The other faction, led by Pramod Tiwari and former minister R.P.N. Singh, want to go with the SP, hoping for a better bargaining power with that party. Tiwari and Singh are also hoping to piggyback the SP and get a share of the latter’s Yadav-Muslim votes. The third faction, comprising Jitin Prasada and his supporters, is opposed to any alliance and wants the party to go it alone, projecting a leader from the state. Jitin Prasada is supposed to have told Rahul that elections are over a year away and “we should first strengthen our own position. That would provide us with a better bargaining power.” The lobby supporting the “go it alone formula” reminds one of 1996 when P.V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister had gone for an alliance in the UP Assembly elections with BSP founding president Kanshi Ram and “surrendered” the Congress space from which the grand old party is yet to recover in UP. Officially of course, the Congress said a week ago that they would go it alone in UP.

 

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