[pullquote]1. As the election dates near, the Congress has no alliance in place in three States
2. A Congress alliance is almost ready only in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir
3. Polling for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections is due on 11 April[/pullquote]
New Delhi: The Lok Sabha election of the first phase begins less than a month from now. But the country’s oldest party Congress is lagging in its preparations. Since the nomination process started, many regional parties have announced their candidates. But in some numerically and symbolically important States, the Congress is not ready with alliances while it does not have the heft to pull it off all alone.
Political observers are attributing this to an attitude problem with the Congress.
The picture is not clear for the Congress in Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi. While Bengal and Bihar together account for 82 seats, Delhi, with a mere seven seats, manages to catch the attention of the whole country because it is the country’s capital.
Congress in Bihar
Here, the Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and the Congress could not reach a unanimous decision on seat-sharing. RJD leader Chadhipu Yadav, although claiming that the alliance is intact, there is no agreement on a compromise formula between the potential allies.
Of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, Congress wanted 15. Later, it climbed down to 11. But the RJD wouldn’t take less than 19, which leaves the Congress with only nine.
Confusion in Delhi
Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is excited about the alliance with Congress in Delhi. But the Delhi unit of the Congress is in two minds. Sheila Dikshit and her colleagues are against this alliance. At the same time, former party president and Delhi’s Congress in-charge PC Chacko is advocating this alliance.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar met with the top brass of the two parties while playing the role of mediator. Now the last decision on this is to be taken by Rahul Gandhi. If an alliance is formed in Delhi, the AAP is ready to leave some room for the Congress in Haryana, Punjab and Goa, where it believes it has some clout, the disappointing performance in results by Kejriwal’s party in the past elections in these States notwithstanding.
Shrunk to near absence in West Bengal
In Mamta Banerjee’s stronghold, the Congress wants to ally with the Left Front. But the situation is not clear yet. Both the parties are open to talks but the final decision cannot be taken. On Tuesday, Left announced candidates for 32 seats but kept four seats from where the Congress had won in 2014 vacant. But the Congress is not willing to take just four. State leaders say they don’t want to be objects of the CPI(M)’s pity.
The Congress has announced candidates for only 11 seats at the moment. It wants to leave 5 seats for the left front.
The reality is that the Congress is now inconsequential in Bengal. It claims so few votes, unlike in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, that the TMC does not suffer from erosion in its vote share when there is no alliance with the Congress — except in political islands like Malda.
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jammu-Kashmir ‘safe’
At present, the Congress alliances in Maharashtra and Karnataka are out of danger. There has been an agreement in Jharkhand but some seats remain a bone of contention.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference reached an agreement with the Congress on Wednesday. The Congress will contest from Jammu and Udhampur. Farooq Abdullah will fight from Srinagar. There will be a ‘friendly fight’ between the two parties in Anantnag and Baramulla.