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Back-to-Pachmarhi buzz in Congress
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9
Clearly disenchanted with the coalition experiment, there is a growing section in the Congress which believes the party should not depend on allies and instead go it alone in the future.

A number of senior Congress leaders are increasingly talking about a return to the “ekela chalo” line adopted at the 1998 Pachmarhi conclave where the party leadership had rejected all suggestions of going in for a national-level alliance.

“We need to go back to the Pachmarhi line if we want to revive the party,” said a senior AICC office-bearer, admitting that the Congress had not been able to capitalise on the fact that it is in power at the Centre. “The Congress may be heading the government in Delhi, but it has made no political impact on the organisation,” remarked a former Congress chief minister.

Although it advocated the “go it alone” line at Pachmarhi, the Congress changed tack five years later at the Shimla Chintan Shivir when it formally declared that all secular forces should work together to take on the BJP led-NDA. Subsequently, Congress president Sonia Gandhi personally reached out to regional players like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the DMK, which eventually resulted in the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Two-and-a-half years after this alliance unseated the NDA, the strain of leading a coalition is clearly telling on the Congress. Besides having to deal with difficult and temperamental allies, there is a growing realisation among Congress leaders that the coalition experiment has actually stunted the party’s growth.

On the contrary, the Congress finds that it is allies like the Left parties who are walking away with the credit for all good work being done by this government while it is left to face the brickbats.

Congress leaders maintain that it is critical for a national party like theirs to contest all seats without fear of being defeated. “By doing so, we are able to maintain our presence on the ground and retain our workers. We only end up driving away our cadres when we go in for an alliance as this requires us to give up our claim on a number of seats,” explained a senior Congress leader, stating that this might not lead to overnight results but will help them rebuild the party and stem the erosion in its support base.

This growing disillusionment with the coalition experiment may also have something to do with the Congress Party’s efforts in keeping together the various allies. The UPA has already lost the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) and the Bihar bypoll has shown how difficult it is to keep the UPA intact. In fact, it is the divisions in their ranks which had ensured a clear victory to the NDA nominees in the Nalanda, Bhagalpur and Koderma elections. Mr Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of Bihar, did not hesitate to blame the RJD for this defeat. “Had RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav listened to us and not insisted on fielding his candidates, things could have been different in Bhagalpur,” he said.



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