The Priyanka Effect? Congress Drops Alliance Talks In Bengal, Andhra

There will be no Grand Alliance between the Congress and Chandrababu Naidu's ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh.

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In West Bengal, any alliance between the Congress and Mamata Banerjee is virtually ruled out


New Delhi: 

The Congress, which has often pitched for a grand opposition coalition to defeat the BJP in the national election due by May, is believed to have remodeled its strategy and decided to fly solo in more than one state. Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal are among them.

The party made it official in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday, a day after Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's meeting with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. The Congress will contest all 25 parliamentary seats in the national polls and all 175 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, announced party leader Oommen Chandy.

This means no Grand Alliance between the Congress and Mr Naidu's ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. The two parties had tied up for the recent Telangana election but the results were disastrous. There was no chemistry and the two consider each other as liabilities.

For the Congress, the TDP was a dead weight in Telangana; for Mr Naidu, the Congress is of no use in Andhra, where there is immense public anger against the party seen to have bifurcated Andhra Pradesh and presided over the birth of Telangana. Also, Jagan Mohan Reddy of the opposition YSR Congress is striding across Andhra Pradesh like a mini-colossus with multiple roadshows.

But a behind-the-scenes understanding between the Congress and the TDP cannot be ruled out.

Mr Naidu has made it clear since the beginning that that their alliance was made only for Telangana and the mahagathbandhan will work at the Central level.

Politically, it is a better strategy for the two parties to contest separately in Andhra Pradesh as it would split the anti-TDP votes, reducing the numbers of Jagan Mohan Reddy.

In Uttar Pradesh, sources in the Congress and the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav camp say Congress entry in 80 seats of the state will only hit the BJP, cutting away its Brahmi-Thakur votes.

In West Bengal, any alliance between the Congress and Mamata Banerjee is virtually ruled out. The Bengal Congress wants no truck with "Mamata-di" - as Rahul Gandhi had addressed her in his message of support for her mega opposition unity show on Saturday in Kolkata. Mr Gandhi didn't attend the event but sent two representatives, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Mallikarjun Kharge.

For the Trinamool, an alliance with the Congress is a burden as it will mean having to share seats with it, seats it would possibly win on its own. Trinamool does not need the Congress, which has withered in Bengal over the years with many lawmakers crossing over to the Trinamool.

With Rahul Gandhi's sister Priyanka Gandhi in the picture - even if her formal debut takes place far away in Uttar Pradesh - the Congress rank and file have found confidence.

"The Congress will not play on the back foot anywhere. We will play on the front foot," Rahul Gandhi said moments after announcing his sister's plunge into politics.

That may be true not just for Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress was dumped by Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav.

In Delhi too, new state Congress chief Sheila Dikshit indicated that any alliance with Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is a remote possibility though Mr Kejriwal himself has not entirely ruled it out on Thursday. 

Party leaders, however, say the Congress is still planning on alliances with Sharad Pawar's NCP in Maharashtra, MK Stalin's DMK in Tamil Nadu, the Janata Dal Secular in Karnataka, RJD in Bihar and JMM in Jharkhand.

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