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Rahul rattles NDA, upsets allies
Fresh overture to the Left & like-minded leaders
Anita Katyal and Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

  • After elections, all options are open... We have always been open to post-poll alliances.
  • I respect Naidu. He has done a good job... may be he is focused on Hyderabad. There are leaders who are in the Opposition. Nitish Kumar for example... I think intention (to work) is there.

— Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, May 5
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi today caused a flutter in political circles with his comments that he had respect for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and TDP leader Chandra Babu Naidu. Addressing a press conference here, he also declared that there was a lot of common ground with these leaders and the Left and that Left parties, he was confident, would back Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister in the post-poll scenario.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, in Chennai, refused to comment. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said, ‘thanks’ and TDP spokesmen in Hyderabad claimed to be gratified at Rahul Gandhi’s compliments.

It upset erstwhile allies like RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who declared that Nitish Kumar had done nothing praiseworthy. It also rattled the BJP, which hastily drafted the Bihar Chief Minister to campaign in Punjab for the NDA. Nitish Kumar would campaign for the NDA in Ludhiana and Jalandhar on May 10, the BJP announced in the evening, in a bid to quell speculation that JD (U), expected to do well in Bihar, could lend support to the UPA after the poll.

Arun JaitleyCongress is hallucinating. They think country's politics is so simple... I am sure by next fortnight we will give a befitting reply.

— Arun Jaitley

With only the last two phases of the polling to go and no single political party slated to get an absolute majority, the Congress set the ball rolling for a post-poll realignment of forces.

Clearly aware that the party’s old allies will not be able to bring in the requisite numbers, Nehru-Gandhi scion and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi made overtures to estranged the UPA partner - the Left parties - and reach out to new allies like NDA member, Janata Dal (U), evoking widespread criticism from the Opposition BJP and a blunt rebuff from the Communists.

AB BardhanThey are nervous… I don’t think the Left will oblige them this time.

— AB Bardhan

Addressing a packed press conference on the eve of the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi made some extremely flattering references to Bihar Chief Minister and JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar and, surprisingly, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu with regard to the performance of their governments.

“I respect Naidu and Nitish Kumar…the intention (of working for the people) is there. I am not saying only the Congress had leaders who have done good work, there are such leaders in the opposition,” he said. He also referred to the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK and Nitish Kumar’s party as “like-minded parties”.
Nitish Kumar
Thanks ! I thank Rahul Gandhi for the praise. I am not looking right or left. It is good that adversaries have also begun to take notice.

— Nitish Kumar

He acknowledged that the Congress and the Communists differed on various issues like the Indo-US nuclear deal and key economic policies but, at the same time, maintained that the grand old party had a lot of meeting ground with the Left. Stating that the Congress is open to post-poll alliances, the AICC general secretary gave clear signs that it is willing to work out an arrangement with the Left parties.

“I am confident the Left parties will support the Manmohan Singh government”, he said. He was sure the Left would not only accept a Congress-led government but also Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister as he reiterated that Singh continued to be the prime ministerial candidate of the UPA and also the allies’ choice for the top job.

Rahul’s comments on the Left as well as parties, which are outside the UPA fold, is a clear admission that the Congress is on the look-out for new post-poll allies as its old partners like the RJD, the LJP and the DMK are on a sticky wicket.

The fear in the Congress is that it will fall way short of the half-way mark even if it emerges as the single largest party. In such a scenario, it will be forced to do business with the Left again and rope in new allies. However, it could prove to be difficult.

The Congress will alienate the Trinamool Congress if it patches up with the Left parties. Similarly, the DMK will not be happy in case the Congress ties up with Jayalalitha’s AIADMK. Its old ally, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, will not be, too, pleased if the Congress establishes contact with Nitish Kumar.

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