Though its electoral war cry would be to defeat the BJP, the Congress, as senior leader A.K. Antony told the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Thursday, might also want to open a front with a few regional parties that seemed to be growing stronger.
While tacitly admitting coalitions will continue, the CWC, at the same time, stuck to its pre-2004 position that the Congress would fight the elections on its own except in states where it has a seat-sharing arrangement with UPA partners or other allies.
In asserting this, the party obliquely rejected the NCP’s public posturing that constituents of UPA contest under the UPA banner. “The Congress is clear that there is no alliance at the national level. Our adjustment is at the state level with UPA parties. This will continue,’’ said party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi.
The CWC called for hard bargaining with allies, including the RJD in Bihar, the SP in UP and the DMK in Tamil Nadu. These parties, the CWC discerned, are those on which the Congress depends and which have gained out of their association with the Congress. But the parties do resort to pressure tactics.
“The Congress and the BJP are the only two national parties. The others are notional national parties. Nobody should dictate terms to us,’’ said another Congress leader.
But the Congress readily admitted coalitions are here to stay. “As things stand, we are in a coalition. The nature of the alliance will depend on the result,’’ Dwivedi said. He seemed to be articulating party chief Sonia Gandhi and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi’s contention that coalitions are a necessity and not an option for the party.
The CWC also endorsed Rahul’s suggestion that the party should start rebuilding itself by fielding new and young faces, especially in the constituencies where it fared poorly.
Rahul, who is in charge of the Youth Congress, reportedly laid stress on grooming and projecting deserving youngsters in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. “But we don’t want it easy. Give them 30 per cent seats where the party has repeatedly lost. Let them fight so that they can build the party and the constituency in future,’’ said one of the 29 participants at the meeting.
The discussion on alliances remained largely UP-centric, with leaders, including Dwivedi, Devendra Nath Dwivedi and Satyavrat Chaturvedi, divided on the impact of the SP’s decision to rope in Kalyan Singh, who was allegedly involved in the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The meeting decided to adopt a wait-and-watch policy.
The mood at the meeting was upbeat with several leaders confident that the sentiment was tilting towards the Congress-led UPA after the nuclear deal and the Centre’s handling of the political and public mood after the Mumbai terror attack.