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Cong, BJP struggle to keep house in order

Source: PTI
March 19, 2009 00:57 IST
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In the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are both suffering from a common ailment -- losing trusted and tested allies.

While Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal has given a jolt to Congress by allocating it only three seats in Bihar, Navin Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal has literally dumped BJP in Orissa and has virtually joined the fledgling Third Front.

With the Lok Sabha elections being likened to a 'bowlers' wicket' where no side can pile up a sizable score, the allies of both the Congress and BJP are fighting to 'hog the bowling' by trying to grab as much political space as they can.

Since these allies are strong regional parties, they want and ensure that in their areas of influence, it is only their writ that runs and not that of the national parties.

In the key state of Uttar Pradesh, the United Progressive Alliance is as good as non-existent. The Congress's attempt to stitch up an alliance with the Samajwadi Party has floundered in the state, which with 80 seats, sends the largest number of members to the Lok Sabha.

The SP has declared candidates for 76 seats in the state, while the Congress has announced candidates for 24 seats so far. Congress leader Digvijay Singh indicated on Tuesday that there was little scope for any adjustment now.

The National Democratic Alliance is comparatively in a better situation in the Mayawati ruled state as the BJP has worked out an alliance with Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal although the saffron party's position has weakened considerably over a period of time with the Ayodhya issue gradually taking a backseat.

In Bihar, the Congress is licking its wounds inflicted by its allies and has threatened to contest as many seats as possible.

However, NDA is better placed in the Nitish Kumar-led state with Janata Dal-United and BJP agreeing to fight 25 and 15 seats respectively. BJP, however, had to eat humble pie as it was forced to concede a seat to its alliance partner from the previously contested 16 seats.

What has come as a major setback to the NDA is Orissa where the Navin Patnaik-led BJD, one of its oldest allies, walked out of the alliance on the eve of the polls, forcing the BJP to go it alone there.

Only neighbouring West Bengal provides a silver lining to the UPA as Congress has been able to thrash out a seat sharing formula with the Mamta Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.

However, Congress was forced to become a junior partner in the alliance with only 14 of the 42 seats being given to it in the pact.

Maharashtra, a state which sends 48 members to the Lok Sabha, the UPA allies are making claims and counter claims.

While the Shiv Sena partners the BJP in Maharashtra and has announced an understanding after much haggling, Congress is in alliance with the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party.

An amicable formula is yet to be worked out in the UPA with NCP eying more seats than it contested last time.

In the southern states, the UPA alliance in Tamil Nadu is facing hiccups after Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam crossed over to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Pattali Makkal Katchi is giving mixed signals.

Interestingly, BJP is 'friendless' in southern India, including in this state.

In Karnataka, Congress was hoping for some understanding with the Janata Dal-Secular. After the Deve Gowda-led party joined the Third Front, the hopes have not borne fruit so far.

Congress is keeping its fingers crossed in Jharkhand where a multi-party alliance is facing inner contradictions and demands of more seats by the alliance partners.

In the border state of Jammu and Kashmir, Congress will fight jointly with the National Conference with both parties contesting 3 seats each.

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