PMK deserts UPA; SP, RJD and LJP form separate front | delhi | Hindustan Times
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PMK deserts UPA; SP, RJD and LJP form separate front

The United Progressive Alliance put together by Cong president Sonia Gandhi in 2004 has almost completely unravelled with the exit of the PMK on Thursday. Worse, some of the allies who went their own way earlier are getting together, outside the UPA, to fight the Lok Sabha elections — such as the RJD, the LJP and the Samajwadi Party, reports Saroj Nagi. See special | The alliance shrinks and how

delhi Updated: Mar 27, 2009 02:38 IST
Saroj Nagi

The United Progressive Alliance put together by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 2004 has almost completely unravelled with the exit of the PMK on Thursday.

Worse, some of the allies who went their own way earlier are getting together, outside the UPA, to fight the Lok Sabha elections — such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Lok Janshakti Party and the Samajwadi Party.

Here is the UPA’s growing list of estranged allies and outside supporters — the PMK, TRS, MDMK, PDP, SP, RJD and LJP. And there was the Left Front that left in 2008 following differences over the nuclear agreement with the US.

The ruling alliance now has only the Congress, NCP, DMK and some minor outfits.

While there was speculation earlier of the PMK’s exit, the formal announcement sent shock waves through the Congress. The PMK men in the union cabinet — health minister Anbumani Ramadoss and minister of state for railways R. Velu — are now set to step down. The PMK had six MPs in the last Lok Sabha.

And it now is going with Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK instead. “We didn’t want the PMK to go but it is their choice,” said Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal. “But we are hopeful they will come back to us after the polls.”

But Sibal’s statement failed to address the impression gaining ground that, one, Congress’s pre-poll management of allies has been abysmal and, two, its allies don’t share its electoral optimism.

Unlike in 2004, when Sonia walked the extra mile — and showed to the world she was doing it — to win allies and set up the UPA, this time there were no such public overtures from her.

Instead, the Congress Working Committee she presides over, decided on January 29 that the party would only enter into state specific electoral pacts — and not a grand national-level alliance that some of its partners wanted. This decision of the Congress working Committee is being blamed for the exit of trusted allies such as Lalu Yadav of RJD. He had publicly asked for a national alliance, which was struck down by the Congress.

In this otherwise bleak situation, the only high points for the Congress were its seat sharing arrangements with the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir, Sharad Pawar’s NCP in Maharashtra and Mamata Banerjee's Trianamool Congress in West Bengal. To keep the NCP in tow, the party’s state units in Bihar and Goa are, for instance, ready to accommodate the NCP.

Where does all this leave the Congress?

The party is now virtually out of the reckoning in 159 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. This includes 80 in UP, 40 in Bihar which the RJD and the LJP divided among themselves, and the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu where the PMK’s decision to quit the UPA has eroded the DMK-Congress’s chances of fighting ant-incumbency. This leaves 384 Lok Sabha seats. The Cong now needs to ensure that it emerges as the single largest party and the largest combine to get support from other groupings.