Senior Congress leaders say Sharad Pawar's 'clean chit' to Modi in the Rafale deal is the most recent example of regional parties succumbing to pressure.
The Congress is also convinced that Mayawati is being arm-twisted.
Archis Mohan reports.
While some Opposition leaders have taken to describe it as the usual Congress resistance in ceding space to smaller parties, the Congress has had a rethink about over-investing in shaping a mahagatbandhan, or grand alliance, to take on the Narendra Damodardas Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party in the forthcoming assembly polls, and even the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Recent developments have strengthened voices within the Congress of those arguing that the party return to its mantra of 'ekla chalo re', or walk alone if others don't heed your call.
Senior Congress leaders say Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar's 'clean chit' to Modi in the Rafale fighter jet deal was the most recent example of regional parties and their respective leaders succumbing to sundry pressures.
Congress leaders had anticipated Bahujan Samaj Party (chief Mayawati aligning with the Ajit Jogi-led Chhattisgarh Janata Congress in the poll-bound state.
The Congress is also convinced that Mayawati is being arm-twisted to push an 'unreasonable' demand that her party be given 50 of the 230 seats to contest in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh.
Leaders in the BSP and Pawar's NCP are either facing graft charges or being investigated by probe agencies.
It isn't as if the Congress has jettisoned its political resolution passed at its plenary in March to return to its 1998 Pachmarhi resolution.
'Congress will adopt a pragmatic approach for cooperation with all like-minded parties and evolve a common workable programme to defeat the BJP-RSS in the 2019 elections,' the resolution passed in its March plenary stated.
Party sources said the Janata Dal-Secular-Congress coalition government in Karnataka is an example of the 'pragmatic' approach.
But it expects more of its potential allies among regional parties to capitulate as Pawar and Mayawati have in recent weeks.
Senior leaders said the mahagatbandhan' will continue to be in flux until the Election Commission announces the poll schedule and the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha polls, which is likely to happen in the first week of March.
"It is only then that these regional leaders will finally cease to get haunted by the fear of probe agencies. Until then, we expect them to be pressurised to make statements that would seem as if a Congress-led mahagatbandhan' is at war with itself and hardly a challenge to BJP," a senior Congress leader said.
He said the real 'grand alliance' will take shape thereafter.
It isn't as if the Congress has shut its doors on either Pawar's NCP or Mayawati's BSP. But it welcomed the news of NCP Lok Sabha member Tariq Anwar quitting his party on Friday, September 28, to protest Pawar's 'defence' of the PM.
'Bravo,' tweeted Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, applauding Anwar. Congress sources said Anwar was more than welcome to rejoin his old party.
Anwar had quit the Congress and founded the NCP along with Pawar and P A Sangma in 1999 to protest 'foreign born’ Sonia Gandhi becoming the Congress president. That has now changed wit' Rahul Gandhi having taken over as the party chief.
Congress leaders also believe there is increasing support for the party in not only Rajasthan, but also Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. They are of the view that even sections of the Dalit community could return to the Congress if Mayawati is perceived to be helping the BJP.
Party leaders are also reaching out to its traditional Brahmin support base in northern India, which is upset with the Modi government for restoring the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes prevention of atrocities law after it had been diluted by the Supreme Court.
An example of the Congress party's 'ekla chalo re' strategy was in evidence on September 10. Opposition leaders, including those from the Congress, had sat to plan the Bharat bandh to protest the rising fuel prices.
Eventually, the Congress decided to make it its own show, with other parties forced to support the move. The Left parties, however, were upset enough to hold independent protests.