New Delhi: In an unexpected move, the Congress says it will not ally at the national level with any party for the general election, due by May.
The party, which leads the ruling United Democratic Alliance, or UPA, had till now maintained it will go to the hustings with this 12-party alliance. It, however, said it will share seats with existing allies in some states.
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The decisions were taken at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, which met at party president Sonia Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi on Thursday.
“There will not be any coalition at the national level.
But existing arrangements with various parties will continue at state levels,” party secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said after the two-hour meeting. “The Congress is going to seek votes on its own except in those places where we have seat-sharing arrangements.”
Round table: The Congress Working Committee met at party president Sonia Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi on Thursday. Kamal Singh / PTI
India will elect 543 law makers to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament.
Dwivedi said seat-sharing arrangements will be finalized after consulting state units of the party. He, however, claimed this did not mean the dismantling of the UPA.
A senior party leader, who was present in the meeting, said this will not affect its relations with existing allies.
“In order to get maximum number of seats, the Congress wants to contest in maximum number of seats...there will not be any common manifesto or common programme. We are not very inclined for sharing seats with them (allies) in states other than their original states,” the leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is also clear that we do not want to share too many seats with parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP) in states other than Uttar Pradesh.”
According to another Congress leader, who was part of the party’s attempts to strike a seat-sharing arrangement with the SP—led by former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav—this party has agreed to set aside 15 seats for the Congress. “There could be friendly fights in at least eight seats (in the state). The Congress may give one seat to the party (SP) in Maharashtra, too,” the leader said.
In 2004, although the Congress had pre-poll alliances with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Jharkhand, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, the UPA was formed only after the elections.
The first Congress leader also said the party is keeping its post-poll options open. “The post-poll scenario will be decided on the basis of the results... If the Congress manages to get absolute majority, the situation could be different. It clearly depends on which party gets how many seats... There are some NDA (opposition National Democratic Alliance) allies who want to break away,” he said.
Both NCP chief Sharad Pawar and RJD leader Lalu Prasad had called for the UPA fighting the elections unitedly.
In a recent television interview, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said UPA parties would remain part of an alliance in the elections under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Psephologist and political analyst G.V.L Narasimha Rao said the move could be either “unwarranted arrogance” or “a strategic move to project its own prime ministerial candidate”.
“For a party, which formed a nice coalition after an unexpected victory, proving many people wrong, saying that we are not promoting that coalition for the election is political stupidity,” added Rao, who is also media adviser to the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh that is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.
The Congress’ announcement comes a day after Pawar told reporters following a public rally in Shirur, Maharashtra, that he was open to new allies and had contacted Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat after Karat reportedly called for all non-Congress, non-BJP secular parties to form an alternative at the Centre.
In an interview with Mint, Karat had said his party would work towards defeating both the Congress—with which it parted ways over the India-US nuclear deal—and the BJP.