The Congress has decided to hunt for new allies while retaining the old ones in its bid to return to power at the Centre after the Lok Sabha elections. The grand old party's strategy revolves around getting new alliance partners like the Janata Dal-Secular in Karnataka, Trinamool Congress of Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal, Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam led by actor- turned-politician Vijaykanth in Tamil Nadu, apart from the existing partners.
Congress is also in favour of not allowing much fissures in its existing alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Lok Janshakti Party in Bihar, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and RJD in Jharkhand along with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Patali Makkal Katchi in Tamil Nadu. Problems, however, remain in stitching an alliance in Uttar Pradesh with Samajwadi Party after claims and counter claims by both parties on several seats. The SP has already announced names for around 60 candidates so far out of 80 in the states, even as the Congress wants to contest in at least 25 seats.
In this election year, what has dented the regional parties' aspirations for more seats in states, other than the ones in which they have primary influence, is the unilateral stand of the Congress Working Committee which stated in its last meeting that the party will only go for regional and not a national alliance.
All India Congress committee general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad is on a trip to Karnataka to assess the ground realities and forge an alliance with JD-S racing against BJP. He is also slated to visit Tamil Nadu to strengthen the existing alliance with the DMK and PMK and also find some more allies.
"An integration is taking place in the United Progressive Alliance ahead of the polls while the National Democratic Alliance is disintegrating," Chief spokesman of the Congress M Veerappa Moily claimed. He said the UPA alliance was stable and the experience of the past five years in running the coalition government is there for all to see. Asked about an alliance with Mamta Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, Moily said she was "definitely" not going with the BJP. He, however, did not reveal the progress of seat sharing talks with her party.
The Congress leader did not rule out an alliance with JD(S) saying the "secular electorate needs it". Moily also claimed that Biju Janata Dal in Orissa and Janata Dal-United in Bihar were not in a "comfortable" position with their alliance with BJP. Congress sources said all the alliances would be in place by the second week of March so that the list of the party candidates is out by March 15.