Congress keen on secular partners

Sonia said her party was prepared to enter into "appropriate coalition or alignment" with secular parties.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2003 01:18 IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday said that her party would be prepared to enter into “appropriate coalition or alignment” with secular parties in the next general elections.

In her concluding address to Congressmen at the three-day conclave, Sonia said, “The prevailing situation in the country makes it incumbent on secular forces to intensify efforts to evolve a strategy for combating communalism and religious fundamentalism and for ensuring the defeat of the BJP and its allies.”

By calling for a coalition, Sonia has taken a step forward from the earlier conclaves in Panchmarhi, 2001, and more recently in Srinagar when she said she had an "open mind'' on the issue.

Three successive defeats in general elections and the erosion of its social and geographic base (in electoral terms, about 200 Lok Sabha seats) seems to have softened up the Congress’ aversion to the idea of coalitions.

Sonia , however, avoided going into the delicate issue of pre- or post-poll and national or state specific tie-ups for the 2004 general elections.

Party leaders pointed out that much would depend on specific situations and how potential allies — like the NCP, SP and the DMK —- respond to the invitation to join forces.

The conclave adopted the 14-point Shimla Resolve which is being showcased as the Congress’ guiding political document.

The document has been drafted so as to hold out a promise to every section of society. Expectedly, it gives adequate expression to the Congress' commitment to fight the BJP-VHP-RSS trinity's “communal, fundamentalist and divisive ideology” with a sustained Jan Jagran Abhiyan across the country.

While reasserting its pro-poor, left-of-centre approach, the Congress' suggestion of affirmative action in the private sector — the first by a national political party — reflects its anxiety to reclaim the socio-political space in the post-Mandal phase.

Besides employment guarantee schemes, it proposes social insurance for workers, remunerative prices for farmers and food security for all.

Shimla Resolve

Poll tie-ups: Sonia will lead the Congress in the elections. Cong will be top dog in any secular coalition.

Affirmative action: Congress moots reservation in the private sector —the first by a national political party.

First Published: Jul 10, 2003 00:00 IST