Sharad Pawar is at it again. On Friday, his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) needled the Congress by declaring it would set up a non-Congress Secular Democratic Front (SDF) across different states, all the while remaining part of the UPA at the Centre.
Sources said such a front, if successful, could turn into a national level alliance for the 2014 general elections.
Less than a week after Pawar asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reduce his ministerial burden, the NCP has launched this new initiative, with spokesman D. P. Tripathi announcing that the party was now part of the Left Democratic Front in Kerala, which contests against the Congress-led United Democratic Front in that state.
Sources said the NCP was also in touch with Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal in Orissa, the Bhrigu Pukhan faction of the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, a significant force in western Uttar Pradesh.
In Andhra Pradesh, the NCP was said to be in touch with Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Jagan has defied the Congress High Command by going on a “odarpu” (consolation) yatra for his father and former chief minister Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash last year.
The party also plans to tap the Telugu Desam Party and the Left in Andhra Pradesh. In Bihar, it will try to reach out to the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Loktantrik Janata Party.
But such tactical state level tie-ups are not without contradictions.
Tripathi downplayed the anomaly of the Left-NCP alliance in Kerala protesting against the UPA policies (of which the NCP is a part). He also saw no need for the NCP to quit the UPA if it disapproved of the Centre’s policy. He also denied any contradiction in his party’s alliance with the Congress in Maharashtra while contesting against it elsewhere.
“The aim is to strengthen our own base. If the Congress doesn’t give us space, we’ll try and find our own,’’ said Tripathi.