With more than 70 per cent of the coalition at its command, the Congress has not only cornered its allies over plum ministerial berths, but also wants to impose its own agenda on the programme of the new government for the next five years. The party has ruled out a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the coalition government like the one in 2004.
Instead, the Congress will form a consultative group -- along the lines of a coordination committee -- to discuss issues of governance with its allies. The group will be headed by Sonia Gandhi [ Images ].
In the first formal meeting of all the United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] (UPA) allies, the issue of making a CMP didn't find any takers in the Congress team represented by Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh [ Images ], Pranab Mukherjee [ Images ], P Chidambaram [ Images ], Rahul Gandhi [ Images ], A K Antony and Ahmed Patel.
This was the first UPA coordination meeting that Rahul Gandhi attended. He said little but watched negotiations, possibly as a 'trainee'.
Significantly, senior Congress leader Arjun Singh [ Images ], who stayed away from the first meeting of the core committee after the results of the general elections came out, stayed away a second time.
As the core committee is an informal body and not part of the Congress constitution, whether the younger Gandhi's presence is incidental or if he will be a permanent fixture is not known.
Possibly concerned at the Congress's clout in the administrative arrangement that will govern the functioning of the UPA, Sharad Pawar [ Images ] (Nationalist Congress Party) and Mamata Banerjee [ Images ] (Trinamool Congress [ Images ]) said they would like to have a CMP. But having travelled down that road with the Left parties, the Congress is pretending it hasn't heard this arguing.
As a compromise, the allies will submit their wish-list and highlights of their own manifestoes to the Congress. "We will see which are the common areas of policy and programme between us and our allies," Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.
Top Congress sources said the party was of the view that this mandate was overwhelming endorsement for its own policies and programmes. So, the party should try to implement its own agenda -- as declared in its 2009 election manifesto -- without giving in to the demands of its allies.
The allies too, sensing the electoral swing in favour of the Congress, are not trying to put much pressure on the Congress to accommodate their wish list. At today's meeting, they (allies) were asked to spell out their "expectations" from this government. While smaller parties like the Bodo People's Front and the Kerala [ Images ] Congress (Mani) said they hoped to get cabinet berths, others emphasised on pro-people issues.