Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav's talk of early Lok Sabha polls to his party cadres shocked Congress leaders engaged in backroom talks for the last two weeks to rope in his party to join the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre for giving it a stability to carry on till 2014.
Almost all of them are now convinced that inviting Mulayam in the government may bring more trouble as he may align with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to force mid-term polls whenever they want to. They now see force in Rahul Gandhi's 'Ekla-chalo'(go alone) policy to help the party regain the past glory.
They say the Congress has to put behind the shock of its severe drubbing in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and continue with the outside support of SP and Bahujan Samaj Party. However, this will mean the government may not be able to take hard decisions to put the economy back on the rails.
A new thinking among those close to Congress President Sonia Gandhi is that Rahul's 'Ekla-chalo' policy should be experimented in the next Lok Sabha elections by the party contesting on its own, keeping the option of a coalition after the polls. This would mean that the party will not have to yield a number of seats to the allies, be it Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Trinamool, Nationalist Congress Party or National Conference, as it can then contest all the seats.
They said such a strategy will also send a message to the people that the Congress is trying to put behind the coalition era and it is trying to give a government on its own. In any case, there should be no poll understanding with the SP in UP and with the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar.
These leaders say it was a mistake to explore the possibility of inviting the SP to join the government as in hindsight they agree with Rahul Gandhi that the Congress will lose even the space it has in Uttar Pradesh to SP and BSP who have built their solid bases in the state.
A post-poll analysis carried out by the party's general secretaries says the people were getting interested in the Congress but they turned to Mulayam to ensure Mayawati's defeat because of the party's 'strategic mistakes' and selection of wrong candidates.
It points out that the party may not have won many seats but it has certainly expanded its existence as compared to the 2007 polls as its votes shot up in as many as 300 constituencies as against dropping in 49 other constituencies. In as many as 58 constituencies, the increase in votes is more than 20,000 and in another 10 constituencies, the Congress candidates gained more than 50,000 votes as compared to 2007.