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Sonstroke hits Cong,allies

Congress president Sonia Gandhi postpone her trip to Tamil Nadu where she was to address a joint rally.

Adding to the unease of UPA allies a day after AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi reached out to rivals Nitish Kumar,Chandrababu Naidu and J Jayalalithaa,Congress president Sonia Gandhi “postponed” her trip to Tamil Nadu where she was to address a joint rally with DMK chief M Karunanidhi.

The Congress claimed Gandhi’s trip was “postponed” because Karunanidhi was unwell. There was also buzz that the trip was called off due to security reasons but official sources told The Indian Express that “there were no security concerns”. The move,coming a day after Rahul Gandhi suggested that Jayalalithaa could be a possible post-poll partner,fuelled suspicion in the ranks of UPA partners.

And it is doubtful whether the Gandhi-Karunanidhi rally will be held at all because DMK sources said Karunanidhi,who had undergone back surgery recently,had been advised complete rest until May 11,the last day for campaigning in Tamil Nadu which votes on May 13.

DMK spokesman T K S Elangovan amplified the unease,saying “We are not taking note of what Rahul Gandhi says. For us,Sonia Gandhi is important and she continues to stick by the alliance with the DMK.”

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Since Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK is expected to do well in Tamil Nadu,allies suspect that Rahul Gandhi was only outlining his party’s strategy to stay ahead in the numbers game.

As reported in The Indian Express today,Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee,reacting to Gandhi’s remark that he was confident of Left support after the polls,warned the Congress that their arrangement in West Bengal would end if the Congress and Left were to get together again.

Other allies also reacted sharply to Gandhi’s wooing of rivals. SP general secretary Amar Singh charged the Congress with “trying to cling to power” at any cost. “In the midst of elections,both the Prime Minister and Rahul Gandhi are wooing the Left. What does it show?” Singh said in West Bengal,adding “it shows the Congress’s lust for power”.

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The RJD and LJP,allies from Bihar who broke away to contest separately but are expected to perform below their 2004 scores,were also upset over Congress attempts to reach out to Nitish Kumar. RJD chief Lalu Prasad was very direct: “Nitish Kumar has done nothing for Bihar. I don’t know why and how Rahul Gandhi is praising him.” LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan wondered why then was the Congress contesting against Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Both Lalu and Paswan have already started looking to the Left,sensing that the Congress may not be interested in them if they don’t get the numbers.

For the record,the Congress tried to placate allies,saying it was “totally” with them. Party spokesperson Ashwani Kumar said: “We are totally with our allies and we are confident of forming a secular government under the leadership of Manmohan Singh. In case there is need to reach out to other secular allies after the results are out on May 16,then it will be considered. We will cross the bridge when we come to it.”

Veerappa Moily,Congress’s media department chairperson,said: “We have a very precious alliance with Mamata Banerjee’s party and it is permanent. We will not do anything to harm the agreement with Trinamool Congress.”

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But party sources maintained that the hunt for new allies was very much on the cards since there was a feeling that not all existing allies would be able to deliver the numbers.

First published on: 07-05-2009 at 02:32:00 am
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