Rahul praises JD-U and TDP, angers Lalu-Paswan (Political Roundup)

May 5th, 2009 - 8:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi By Minu Jain
New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) With a splintered verdict looming ahead, the Congress Tuesday opened the door to multiple choices after the Lok Sabha elections with Rahul Gandhi reaching out to not just the estranged Left but also rivals TDP and JD-U only to be summarily rebuffed by all.

The Congress general secretary, who has emerged as the most prominent face of the party, further blurred the contours of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) when his overtures to the Janata Dal-United led to furious reactions from key allies, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

Laying out his party’s strategy in a confusing post poll scenario, Rahul Gandhi indicated at a press conference here that there would be few enemies.

He declared that the Congress would form the next government and that Manmohan Singh would be the UPA’s prime minister again. But he also said the field was open for post-poll alliances.

“We will do better than last time. And I am confident that the Left will support Manmohan Singh,” he announced on the last day of campaigning for Thursday’s fourth leg of the Lok Sabha elections that conclude May 13.

He added that the Congress too would support the Left if such a scenario were to unfold.

But the Left parties were quick to dismiss his claim of getting their support as “misplaced confidence” and as an indication that the Congress was unsure of getting the numbers to form a government.

“We are for a non-Congress, non-BJP government. Full stop,” said Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Sitaram Yechury.

His party colleague Brinda Karat added forcefully: “The Congress general secretary’s confidence is misplaced…”

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader A.B. Bardhan termed it an “election ploy” and said it reflected the Congress’ nervousness. “I don’t think the Left will oblige them this time.”

While overtures to the Left are not new, Rahul Gandhi surprisingly also tried establishing links with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner JD-U and the Third Front’s Telugu Desam Party.

“Chandrababu Naidu did a reasonably good job (as the Andhra Pradesh chief minister). He focussed on Hyderabad, he went on the wrong bend perhaps, but I respect him,” he said.

“I am not saying that only Congress has leaders (who have done good work), there are leaders in the opposition… Nitish (Kumar), for example,” he said, praising the Bihar chief minister.

“After elections, all options are open. NDA partners are looking at where is NDA. It exists only in the mind of the BJP. NDA does not exist on the ground. It is gone,” he said.

Nitish Kumar was unimpressed.

“I am thankful to you and nothing more. We are in NDA, we are part of NDA, and we are working hard for the victory of NDA. So if somebody praises, nothing should be read into it.”

With this, relations with the RJD and the LJP, already strained to breaking point over the issue of seat sharing in Bihar, reached a new low.

Railway Minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad hit out at the Congress by saying: “Nitish Kumar is doing nothing good… Congress is not part of our party, and we are not part of Congress.”

Added union Steel Minister Paswan: “If Nitish is doing good work, why did Congress put up candidates against JD-U? I don’t know what he (Rahul) means. Why should I comment? Let them comment.”

The BJP was also scathing and said the Gandhi scion was “hallucinating” and lacking in political maturity.

“The Congress analysis of the election lacks political maturity. The Congress is hallucinating and making fictional arithmetic,” BJP spokesperson Arun Jaitley told reporters.

Notwithstanding the criticism, political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan said Gandhi had become the first in the Congress to spell out the party’s strategy and shown himself as “a long distance runner” in politics.

According to Rangarajan, Rahul Gandhi had identified the BJP as the certain enemy and the Left as a force whose support they could consider taking. Most important, he said, the Congress looked forward to cooperation with regional leaders — in contrast to what Manmohan Singh had to say the other day about regional parties.

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