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No national-level alliance: Cong
Anita Katyal and Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29
In a clear message to its demanding allies, the Congress today categorically ruled out an alliance at the national-level in the coming Lok Sabha elections but qualified that it would continue its seat-sharing arrangements with its partners in the states.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC), which met here today to discuss the current political situation, also decided it would contest the coming general election on its own manifesto and not a common one with its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) partners.

Making it clear that it wants a partnership on its own terms, the Congress maintained that alliances are a political compulsion for it but not an option and if push came to shove, it would even be willing to sit in the Opposition for the next five years.

“The Congress is leading a coalition government at the Centre. There are state-level seat adjustments and this existing arrangement will continue,” AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told media persons after the CWC meeting.

He also clarified that the Congress would have its own election manifesto except where it was in alliance. “In states where we have alliance partners we will seek votes for them...elsewhere we will ask for votes for our own party,” Dwivedi added.

The party’s insistence on presenting its own manifesto in its capacity as leader of the ruling coalition and as a national party is essentially meant to claim ownership of the UPA government’s achievements.

The CWC’s stand on alliances is aimed at sending a message to regional allies like Sharad Pawar’s NCP, which has been mounting pressure for a national-level alliance. Realising that partners like the RJD and the DMK are not so strongly placed as was the case in 2004, the Congress wants to drive a hard bargain in its seat-sharing negotiations this time.

Several CWC members said unlike the last election when the RJD gave only four seats to the Congress in Bihar, the party should pitch its demand higher this time since the partnership also benefits the regional ally.

“The Congress recognises it cannot go it alone in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu.. so we have to see what strategy we should adopt to get and win more seats,” explained a CWC member.

Several members, including Janardan Dwivedi, Devendra Dwivedi, Satyavarat Chaturvedi and Mohsina Kidwai, apprehended that their alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh could alienate the minorities after the regional party tied up with Kalyan Singh, perceived to be responsible for the Babri Masjid demolition. It was suggested that this factor be kept in mind during its negotiations with the SP.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who presided over the meeting, wished Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a speedy recovery on behalf of the CWC in her opening remarks while External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee briefed members on the salient features of the election manifesto.

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