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Congress’ peculiar ally troubles — when friend in one state supports its rival in another

Congress has requested allies NCP and RJD to not campaign for TMC in Bengal. Both parties, along with JMM, have extended support to Mamata in the state elections. 

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New Delhi: The Congress party’s allyship conundrum has reared its ugly head ahead of assembly elections in five states, with the party having to request its allies in some states to not campaign against it in others. 

The Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP from West Bengal, Pradip Bhattacharya, has written to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav — the party’s allies in Maharashtra and Bihar respectively — to not campaign for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal. 

Bhattacharya has said that if the two parties were to campaign against the Congress, it “will create confusion among the common voters of West Bengal”. 

Pawar had last week come out in support of the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, while Tejashwi had earlier this month met the West Bengal chief minister and extended the RJD’s “full support” to her.  

Another of Congress’ allies — the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) — has also extended its support to the TMC, with party’s working president and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren saying Banerjee “has to be brought back to defeat communal forces”.  

The party subsequently defended its support to TMC saying that it would “not be any clash of interest” as “alliances are state-specific”.  

While the three parties are yet to confirm if they will campaign for the TMC, their vocal support has put the Congress in an awkward spot. 

“If you are the party’s ally in one state, and then come out as a campaigner for its primary rival in another state, what message does that send to the voters? It’s unnecessary and should be avoided,” a West Bengal Congress leader said.

Also read: What are Congress (I) & Congress (A)? The 2 party camps in place since 1970s in Kerala

Bengal not the only state

Matters become more complicated when other states slated for polls are considered. 

The Pawar-led NCP is contesting the Kerala election as part of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) alliance, which happens to be the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF)’s primary rival in the state. 

The Congress too is walking a tight-rope, careful not to disturb the alliances it has crafted in various states. For instance, in West Bengal, the party is part of the CPI(M)-led alliance, but will be campaigning against the Left in Kerala. This will impact how the party leads its campaign in the next coming days. 

“While campaigning in all the states, we have to be careful to ensure our campaign is limited to that state and that state’s politics,” a Kerala Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity. “It doesn’t make sense to attack the Left as a whole now that we have allied with them in West Bengal.” 

Last month, when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited Kerala for election campaigning, he stayed away from attacking the Left, and mostly spent time discussing the people and culture of Kerala.

He said a “different type of politics” is practiced in North India and that coming to Kerala was “very refreshing” as people are interested in “issues”.

Party’s alliances under the scanner

The Congress has also been subject to attack from the BJP for its alliances with the AIUDF in Assam, the IUML in Kerala and the Indian Secular Front (ISF) in West Bengal. All three are perceived as Muslim parties.  

“The Congress can go to any length to win an election. It has aligned with Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF in Assam, the Muslim League in Kerala and the Indian Secular Front in Bengal. Assam cannot be safe in the hands of Ajmal,” Home Minister Amit Shah said while campaigning in Assam’s Margherita last week.

The alliance choices have also led to internal wrangling, especially in Assam and West Bengal. 

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress chief in West Bengal, had earlier told ThePrint that the party has allied with the ISF on “the cardinal principle of democracy and secularism.”

“If anyone violates this cardinal principle, which is the basis of our alliance, the Congress party would be the first to disassociate with them,” Chowdhury had said while speaking to ThePrint last week.

In Assam, party leader Sushmita Dev has been miffed over its alliance with the AIUDF and the seat-sharing in the Barak valley — so much so that there was heightened speculation earlier this month that Dev has quit the Congress over the differences. 

While Dev quickly clarified that that wasn’t the case, sources in Congress have said they will be making efforts to ensure the party goes the extra mile to present itself as a ‘secular’ alliance. 

“We are against communalism of all hues, and, of course, the BJP is trying to present our alliance with AIUDF as a communal one, but that isn’t true,” an Assam Congress leader said. “We will ensure that whichever leader of ours campaigns here now, reiterates our secular credentials as a party.” 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will be campaigning in Assam during a two-day visit starting 19 March. 

Last month when Gandhi visited Assam, he, along with some other party leaders made headlines by wearing a “NO CAA” gamcha on their campaign trail. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Why Congress is walking tightrope on CAA: Fiercely against it in Assam but muted in Bengal


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  1. Alliances not based on any principles but on common hatred towards Narendra Modi is bound to throw up this kind of differing perceptions to the voters of different states going to polls.

  2. This only goes to show how utterly opportunistic congress party is… No principles, even political principles, will do anything and everything to just grab power at all costs.

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