Congress for Sonia-led alliance in LS polls
Congress leaders almost unanimously believe the party should enter into an alliance with other secular forces if it wants to capture power at the Centre in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. However, such an arrangement should be led by the Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi.
Discussing election preparedness, organisational reforms and the political challenges before the party at the three-day 'vichar manthan shivir' in Shimla on Tuesday, Congress leaders are likely to authorise the party president to decide on the coalitions soon.
However, given the delicacy of the issue vis a vis parties like the SP or the NCP, which have made Sonia's foreign origins an issue, the Congress may not spell this out openly when it formulates its final document.
The draft likely to be approved by the CWC, which was in session until late tonight, will keep open the options of pre and post poll alliances, leaving it to the Congress president to work out the modalities.
The party’s Shimla sankalp to be unveiled on Wednesday by Sonia is likely to dwell on the post and pre poll options.
At the group-level discussions earlier, opinion was divided on whether the party should enter into pre-poll or post-poll arrangements and on whether it should go for a grand national alliance or state-specific tie-ups.
Aware that the party cannot take the responses of its potential allies' for granted, Congress leaders also see the contradictions involved in the exercise since the party does not have a presence in UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu or West Bengal.
For instance, the CPI-M, the Congress' most dependable ally on the national scene, cannot be part of any pre-election tie-up though it may back the party in a post-poll scenario.
In Maharashtra, any pre-poll alliance with the NCP would have to cover two issues. One, as former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh pointed out, it would have to be extended to both the assembly and general elections since they are being held simultaneously. Two, the NCP, which has made Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins an issue earlier, would have to clarify its stand on it.
Opinion on a pre-poll tie-up in states where the party is weak - UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu -- is also divided. While some Congressmen feel this could help rebuild the organisation, others fear a near decimation of the party, as in UP and Bihar where the SP and the RJD have gobbled up the Congress' traditional base.
There were differences on the issue of post-poll tie-ups too. Some leaders felt other parties could pitch for the leadership unless it was spelt out openly.
Besides this, there are potential allies which are currently in the NDA.