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'No Manmohan, no government'

Last updated on: May 15, 2009 23:59 IST
"No Manmohan no government" is the Sonia mantra on the eve of counting of votes for the 15the Lok Sabha. Sources in the Congress say that while the party is confident of being the single largest and getting enough support to form the government, there is a sea change from the situation in 2004 when the Congress was desperate to throw out the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance and form the government at the centre.

This time a senior leader who is privy to the thinking at 10, Janpath said that there is no desperation. He said that this time there would be no compromise on key issues, and neither would the party go to prospective allies with folded hands. He said, "If a

Congress-led government is formed, then the only candidate from the party would
be Dr Manmohan Singh."

Congress leaders say that the party is looking to form the government with "self-respect" or not at all, and added that it has consistently supported its allies, whether it be Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Shibhu Soren, Rashtriya Janata Dal's Laloo Prasad Yadav or any of the others.

But Congress leaders have begun moves to win over friends who will help them reach the magical number of 272.

Highly placed sources disclose that Ahmed Patel, the political secretary to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi had a telephonic conversation with Bihar Chief Minister and Janta Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar, who is much in demand and now sees himself as the third largest party in the post poll scenario.

Sources from Patna disclose that Nitish Kumar is learnt to have almost dismissed out of hand the question of BJP strongman L K Advani becoming the Prime Minister and has almost put a full stop on the issue of a BJP-led NDA government.

Looking for a Bihar-centric issue which could show the way out, Nitish spoke about supporting any party which gives special status to Bihar and Digvijay Singh of the Congress responded immediately in a positive vein.

The Congress is publicly saying that it has not started scouting around for allies. But the facts are that the party has been sending feelers through different channels for some time,  and now political leaders of both the Congress and its key allies like Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar are in touch with leaders of various parties and groups.

Sources in the party also state that attempts are being made to create confusion within some parties so as to benefit the BJP. A case in point is the lead story in a major daily which is being denied by the Congress. The party has denied that Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee discussed portfolio distribution with Samajwadi Party's Amar Singh, stating that Mukherjee has no authorisation to discuss government formation with any ally. The Congress states that the aim of the article was to confuse the Bahujan Samaj Party and ensure that Mayawati goes over to the BJP.

But Congress leaders also said that it has been conveyed to Mayawati not to put any credence on such stories as they are simply untrue.

In the election season where gossip and speculation is being peddled as fact and information, All India Congress Committee media chairman Janardhan Dwivedi was
unwilling to comment on the possibility of the party supporting a Third Front-led government.

He merely said, "Wait for the numbers on Saturday". Its what everyone is doing. Waiting for the D-day to decipher the outcome of one of the most difficult elections of recent times.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi