Congress silent on poll alliances in Jaipur Declaration

Jaipur, Jan 20 (IANS) The issue of alliances in the 2014 general elections did not find mention in the Jaipur Declaration, adopted by the Congress Sunday, though the issue was discussed by a sub-group on emerging political challenges at the Chintan Shivir here.

The Jaipur Declaration, adopted by the party, was an "important document" that lays down the party's future direction, said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, adding: "If we go according to it, nothing can hamper our progress."

"In our political path, newer difficulties keep coming, but if we are determined and have faith in our path and policies, then we can achieve our goals," said Gandhi, speaking in Hindi.

Forging alliances with regional players and ways to reach out to various sections of society to win the 2014 general elections was discussed by the delegates at the sub-group meeting and later by the Congress Working Committee, the party's highest decision-making body, Saturday evening.

"The majority view was related to alliances, both pre-poll and post-poll," a union minister, who was part of the sub-group on political challenges, told IANS on condition of anonymity.

"Many delegates felt the regional parties take benefit from the money sent by the central government for various social welfare schemes but the centre (read Congress) gets no credit," said the minister.

The party has already formed the sub-group headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony to explore the kind of alliances it can work out for the 2014 polls.

Gandhi urged the party Friday to respect the allies but not at the expense of rejuvenating the Congress, and expressed concern at the Congress' eroding traditional support base.

She said the conclave had come at a time when the "party has been in power for nine years" but "is not governing a number of states and faces serious challenges in states long considered its bastions".

The states where the Congress is looking for alliances in the run-up to the next Lok Sabha elections scheduled in 2014 are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and some northeastern states.

"The general agreement in the party is that we need to have healthy alliances with friends and allies together," Minister of state (independent charge) for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari told IANS.

"There is also a need to connect with different sections of society," he said.

The Congress has been out of power in the major states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar for decades, while it broke up its alliance with the Trinamool Congress at the centre and in West Bengal last year.

Among the 12-odd states where the Congress rules, only Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Assam are major states. In Maharashtra, it is in an uneasy coalition with the Nationalist Congress Party.

In a reflection of the party thinking, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, known for his open views, was quoted by a TV news channel as saying the Congress might not be able to come back to power on its own in the next parliamentary elections.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram appeared to back him when he said that it is difficult for any party to win absolute majority.

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