In a bid to prevent SP and RJD from making any dent in Mumbai, Congress is keen on a tie-up with the NCP for the elections to the prestigious Mumbai Corporation in January 2007.
Voting for the 227 member corporation, which has an annual budget of about Rs 12000 crore, is considered a mini assembly election. The corporation is presently controlled by the BJP-Shiv Sena.
According to a Congress leader, SP and RJD see fertile ground for their parties among the large number of people from UP and Bihar. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP, in fact, would also try to make inroads among the Muslim community following the Mumbai blasts which tended to polarise the polity.
The Congress’ state unit’s keenness for an alliance with the NCP for the Mumbai corporation contrasts sharply with the AICC’s directive to its workers to try and use the forthcoming local body elections as a "dipstick" to test their strength at the ground level.
The party’s thinking is that this will give it enough time to take corrective steps before the 2009 assembly (and Lok Sabha polls) in the state where its main aim is to come to power on its own.
The Congress is working on the logic that its main adversary in the state is now the NCP and not the Shiv Sena, which has split, or the BJP, which is rudderless without Pramod Mahajan’s guidance.
It is, in fact, competing with Sharad Pawar’s party to exploit the disarray in the BJP and Sena camps and hopes to gain from Sonia Gandhi’s five rallies in the state.
But the central leadership’s decision to hold the MPs, ministers and legislators accountable for the outcome of the elections in their areas seems to have given the jitters to local leaders who may have failed to nurture their constituencies or maintain contact with the people. They are now worried that if their areas fail to deliver, their own future might get affected.
In fact, there are contradictory signals emanating from the state unit on the issue of alliances. Given Sharad Pawar’s stature and clout, party workers in western Maharashtra are keen on an understanding with the NCP. But it is a veritable "no" in Marathwada. And in Vidarbha, state leaders are a divided lot, though an overwhelming majority want to go alone all the way, said a senior Congress leader.