Some Congress leaders have begun talking of the need for a brain-storming session to discuss the impact of the party's experiment with coalition politics on the organisation's prospects and growth.
The move comes as the Congress-led UPA government is mid-way through its five year term at the Centre and in the wake of the Congress' defeat in Koderma (in Jharkhand), the UPA’s inability to field a common candidate in the Bhagalpur and Nalanda bypolls (won by the BJP-JD(U) in Bihar) and the saffron party's gains in the Uttar Pradesh civic polls where the Congress performance did not match its expectations.
A section in the Congress party believes that the party's growth has been hampered by its partners - and other regional parties - who have prospered at its expense.
These include the RJD in Bihar, the NCP in Maharashtra, the DMK in Tamil Nadu, the Left Front in West Bengal and the SP and BSP in UP. In some of these states, Congressmen suffer the ignominy of being branded a 'B' team.
This section recalls that the Congress is still struggling to recover from its self destructing move in 1993 when it contested only 125 seats in undivided UP, leaving the rest for the BSP.
"The Congress symbol vanished from the scene.We may suffer the same fate nationally if we go for a pre-poll alliance in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls," said a Congress leader whose support for a coalition extends only to a post-poll tie-up.
Congress leaders are not willing to come on record on their demand for a detailed analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the party's experiment with coalition politics at the Centre and in states. But at least four AICC general secretaries are known to be against pre-poll alliances.
Presently, the Congress finds itself caught in a vicious circle. It cannot give up on coalitions, particularly as it has little presence in states like UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal that account for 204 Lok Sabha seats.
At the same time, it cannot hope for a revival in these states, unless its allies, supporting parties and other regional outfits show a decline.
For instance, in Bihar and UP, the RJD, the SP and the BSP - alongwith the BJP - had walked away with the Congress' muslim-dalit-brahmin vote. Many of these parties derive their strength and relevance with the BJP's presence.
At the 1998 Pachmarhi conclave, the Congress had said that that it would consider the idea of coalitions only when absolutely necessary and without diluting its principles and ideology. But the line was modified in Shimla in 2003, with Sonia Gandhi stating that her party had an open mind on coalitions as the political situation called on secular parties to fight communalism and the BJP.