The New Indian Express - - EDITORIAL -

Cre­at­ing a Congress-mukt Bharat was the war cry of the BJP since 2014. A sec­tion of its op­po­nents too are think­ing like­wise, though they haven’t ar­tic­u­lated it in as many words. The SP-BSP al­liance an­nounced in Ut­tar Pradesh on Fri­day was one such. It was soft on the Congress-mukt phrase, but the mes­sage was un­mis­tak­able. Snubbed by the Grand Old Party over seat-shar­ing in three big Hindi-speak­ing states in the re­cent polls, Mayawati and Akhilesh Ya­dav gave the Congress a taste of its own medicine in a state that sends the big­gest chunk of mem­bers to the Lok Sabha. It’s also the state from where PMs have tra­di­tion­ally sprouted. Though the two par­ties showed the cour­tesy of keep­ing va­cant Ame­thi and Rae Bareli—seats held by Rahul Gandhi and his mother So­nia—and kept a back chan­nel open for talks, the Congress knows it needs to carve out a third front with bit play­ers more its size, than be­ing in the big league where it as­pired to be­long in UP.

Re­gional satraps in West Ben­gal and Andhra Pradesh too don’t want elec­toral pacts with the Congress. Ditto Odisha. In Ben­gal, both Tri­namool chief Ma­mata Ban­er­jee and the Congress don’t see merit in com­ing to­gether since their votes are not trans­fer­able. In Andhra, af­ter the dis­as­trous pact in the Te­lan­gana state polls, TDP chief Chan­drababu Naidu is ex­pected to keep the Congress out of any coali­tion he builds in his state, though he is game for an al­liance at the na­tional level.

The UP mes­sage has also per­co­lated to Kar­nataka where the Congress has an un­easy coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the JD(S), which is ask­ing for a big chunk of the Lok Sabha seats. It re­mains to be seen if Rahul has the abil­ity to ca­jole and soften up the ally. In Tamil Nadu, while DMK chief M K Stalin may have en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pro­posed Rahul as the fu­ture PM, his party is not known to treat allies with dig­nity dur­ing seat-shar­ing talks. Strat­egy or oth­er­wise, re­gional big­gies are play­ing the same Congress-mukt game, giv­ing the BJP enough breath­ing space, which they might end up re­pent­ing at leisure.

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