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Nightmare on Alliance Street for Congress

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi | March 22, 2004 14:50 IST

The ghosts of inadequate funds and uncertain electoral alliances haunt the Congress as it gears up to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the general election.

Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee admitted the party's financial difficulties, saying unlike in the past, potential contributors are not stepping forward this time. "The situation is improving, but we need to be in a better position," he told rediff.com

"Every party needs funds especially during elections to meet various expenditure relating to campaign and other needs. There is nothing unique in that," pointed out another senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Sources said the Congress leadership has exhorted party chief ministers in Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi, and Karnataka to urgently collect funds to meet the situation.

According to the sources, the Congress also faces a nightmare in tying up regional alliances, with parties refusing to either tie-up, or those that are allied making extremely difficult demands for the sharing of seats.

For weeks now, the Congress has been wooing the Bahujan Samaj Party, led by former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. But all hopes came to a naught after Mayawati blasted the Congress, terming it 'manuwadi' [followers of Manu, who had written against the lower castes] and an 'anti-Dalit' party at a public meeting in Rohtak recently.

Mayawati alleged that Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues were responsible for denying a Congress nomination to Dr B R Ambedkar, the Dalit icon and father of the Constitution, during the 1952 general election, forcing him to contest from West Bengal.

She also alleged that then Congress prime minister P V Narasimha Rao had attempted to 'bribe' BSP founder Kanshi Ram by offering to make him deputy prime minister, which the latter turned down as it was designed to 'sabotage the existence of the BSP.'

Given Mayawati's strident anti-Congress rhetoric, Congress leader Ambika Soni declared that the party would contest the election on its own. Party sources claimed the BJP leadership was exerting pressure on the different regional parties not to ally with the Congress and pointed out that Mayawati admitted a few days ago that 'NDA forces' were pressurising her not to ally with the Congress.

Besides potential tie-ups, existing allies are also proving problematic. Laloo Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which is allied with the Congress in Bihar, failed to turn up in Delhi for two weeks to discuss the sharing of seats. While the Congress hopes to contest at least half-a-dozen out of Bihar's 40 Lok Sabha seats, senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Yadav declared in Patna that his party would not give more than four seats to the Congress.

In Jharkhand, the Shibu Soren faction of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has proved to be equally difficult in concluding a deal. Party workers said Soren has demanded the constituencies of Rajmahal and Kodarma for his party though the Congress held both in the last Lok Sabha. Laloo Yadav wants the parliamentary seats of Chhatra, Godda, Dhanbad, Jamshedpur, Dumka and Palamau in Jharkhand.

Worse, Laloo Yadav has apparently told the Congress leadership that he is giving the constituencies of Ranchi, Khunti, Lohardagga, Singhbhum and Giridih to the Congress. The only problem is they are perceived as BJP strongholds.

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