New Delhi, Jan 18: The Congress finally decided that it would go on a hunt for allies for the future electoral ventures. It was indeed a U-turn from the Panchmari Resolution of the party in 1998 when Sonia Gandhi said no to coalition. Earlier on Friday, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said he did not think that the Congress could return to power on its own in the near future.
According to sources, the Janata Dal (United) and the Biju Janta Dal could emerge into likely allies of the Congress. The JD(U) is currently an ally in the National Democratic Alliance although its relation with the BJP is not entirely smooth. The BJD, on the other hand, had snapped ties with the BJP around four years ago.
Ramesh's realisation may sound contradictory to Rahul Gandhi's desire to go alone but the reality is that the party doesn't have the numbers to back such ambition.
This is, however, not for the first time that the Congress is opting for allies. The party, which had formed a majority government last time in 1984, could not ignore allies and after both the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it headed coalition governments at the Centre. Although, each time, it had its share of problems in managing coalition partners.
During the first UPA government, the Congress had serious differences with the Left Front on an issue like economic reforms and the breaking point arrived in 2008 when the Left withdrew support from the government over the Indo-US nuclear deal. History repeated itself in 2012 when the Trinamool Congress, led by a mercurial Mamata Banerjee, pulled out of the UPA II government over issues like FDI in multi-brand retail. On both occasions, Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party backed the Centre. The Congress, hence, had to fall back on one coalition partner when another one removed the carpet from under its feet.
At the state level, the Congress is in poor shape in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar while it pulled out of the government in West Bengal as a reciprocation to the Trinamool's pull-out from the Centre. The Andhra bastion is also looking under threat while it is yet to find an answer against Narendra Modi in Gujarat.
The only high points for the party in the recent years are states like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh besides maintaining its stronghold in northeastern India and Delhi. Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu offer little hope for the party but here too, it has to overcome a number of challenges.
The Congress at the best can only project itself as a party that can lead growth by functioning within a framework of coalition politics. The days of charismatic leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi are long over. The party is learning the truth reluctantly, will it sustain its latest stand taken in Jaipur?