M A I N   N E W S

Cong, BJP all out to woo allies
Faraz Ahmad and Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 12
As the day of forming the next government at the Centre approaches, both the Congress and the BJP are reassuring their respective allies to keep their flock together while they are simultaneously approaching those outside to join as well.

But while the BJP which has kept its NDA intact has an advantage, the Congress is beset with problems of having deserted and distanced itself from its UPA allies, Mulayam Singh Yadav of SP, Lalu Prasad of RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan heading the LJP in the run up to the polls.

Now to mollify them, AICC general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi declared here today, “The UPA is intact. We have not left any of our allies.”

He also added, “All secular parties are welcome to join us.” This is a clear indication that the Congress is fishing for talent outside the UPA realising that its numbers will fall considerably short of the required number of 272 to form the next government.

Dwivedi’s remarks came a day after the BJP spoke in similar vein declaring yesterday, “All parties, minus the RJD, the Congress and the Left are on our list. We have opened our communication channels to all of them. Privately they said they were looking at Jayalaliltha, Mayawati and Mamta Banerjee as the big fish they could prey upon to stake their claim first.

The BJP’s hopes have soared further since it persuaded K Chandrasekhar Rao of the TRS to switch sides and attend the NDA rally at Ludhiana last Sunday.

Fuelling further speculations on this count, NDA acting convener Sharad Yadav too claimed that he was in touch with BSP chief Mayawati, clearly indicating that the NDA was targeting the most important leader of the Third Front.

Simultaneously, senior BJP senior leader M Venkaiah Naidu announced in Hyderabad amidst reports of informal contacts between the TDP and the BJP today that, “My party will accept support from anyone backing Advani as the Prime Minister.”

The leaders of the rival UPA and the NDA fronts are targeting the parties of the Third Front first. While the BJP is mentioning Jaya, Maya and Mamta and also TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu as the probables, the Congress too is eyeing many the Third Front members like HD Deve Gowda led JD-S, and also Mayawati.

As Dwivedi said, “All secular parties are welcome to join us.” Privately Congress leaders are also not ruling out Jayalalaitha, though they will prefer to talk about this only after May 16, when the results are out.

And while Congress president Sonia Gandhi may enter the negotiating room after 16th, for the time being her trouble shooters Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad are busy at work.

Notwithstanding these claims the TDP, the BSP and the JD-S have denied any contact with either the Congress or the BJP or their deserting the Third Front for any other front.

Congress too indicated its readiness to do business with Mayawati. Recalling old ties with the BSP, party leaders said, “Between 2004 and 2007 the Congress was closer to Mayawati than Mulayam,” a senior party leader said adding however that “Mayawati is known to be totally unreliable.”

Whatever the Congress may say about Mayaswati’s “unreliability”, its own credibility quotient is pretty low.

Congress general secretaryRahul Gandhi overtures towards leaders like Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu still rancours his UPA allies like Lalu, Paswan and Karunanidhi.

SP general secretary Amar Singh has even hinted at going with the Left and accused the Congress of trying to rope in the BSP through Uttar Pradesh Governor TV Rajeshwar and made it clear that his party’s support would not come easy this time.

“I have been saying since the beginning that the Congress is in touch with the BSP through Governor Rajeshwar. This is called track-II politics, Amar Singh said here today.

He also mentioned the changing attitude of the Congress towards Nitish Kumar.

Expressing confidence that SP will get enough seats to be relevant, he said, “I am confident that I will be relevant, and if the Congress comes to me again I will not behave like a gentleman. This time I will ask for my pound of flesh,” he said.



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