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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Carry On Coalition

It has always liked to go it alone. Can it hunt with a pack of motley partners?

Carry On Coalition
Jitender Gupta
Carry On Coalition
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
As the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) gets down to the business of governance after a week of birth pangs, the Congress, heading a conglomerate of such varied hues for the first time, is gearing up to face an all-new set of political challenges. It must maintain a frictionless coalition by keeping its allies happy and at the same time work towards reviving the Congress in a coalition environment—at the expense of those same allies. "Look at the map of India. In large parts of the country, we don't have a presence. That's the challenge," says party strategist Jairam Ramesh.

Congress leaders say the message from 10, Janpath is clear: there's no room for complacency. Even though it is peacetime, the party isn't shutting down its war rooms. Congress president Sonia Gandhi's promised "mahasangharsh (grand struggle)" to re-establish the party and change the face of the Indian polity has a large number of takers in the organisation. The key players in the Congress election campaign, particularly the core committee which manned the crisis councils, have stayed in the party rather than join the government. Among them are Congress Working Committee (CWC) members Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel and Motilal Vora and strategists Ramesh and Salman Khursheed. "With Mrs Gandhi staying out of the government, the party is where the action is," says a buoyant Khursheed.

Soni turned down a cabinet berth for a chance to be part of the new Sonia team, much to the chagrin of her CWC colleagues who migrated to the government. By emulating Sonia's example, fumed a septuagenarian cabinet minister, Soni had tried to "make us all look small". Another CWC figure felt she should have taken up a cabinet post and then given it up after a few months. But the responsibilities of being in government would have meant her closeness to the sanctum sanctorum—the Congress President's...
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