Once 'two wheels of a cycle', Akhilesh unfriends Rahul: A list of Congress' coalition partners and how they petered out

They had described themselves as 'two wheels of a cycle' and 'confluence of Ganga and Yamuna' ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election 2017. Almost a year later, 'Ganga' and 'Yamuna' seem to be going their separate ways.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday told the media that the party will not think of alliances for now, and instead focus on strengthening the party organisation. Akhilesh, who had joined hands with the Congress in January last ahead of the "crucial" state Assembly election, was quick to clarify on Tuesday that he was not thinking of an alliance ahead of the "crucial" 2019 general elections. Akhilesh termed the process of talks and seat negotiations as a waste of time and ruled out alliances "as of now".

Much as 2017, the year 2018 will be inundated with elections. Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland — are all gearing up to elect their new respective Assemblies. The declining wheel of Congress turned a full circle after state elections held in 2015-2016-2017 and the Congress is in power now in only four states — Karnataka, Punjab, Mizoram and Meghalaya. Bihar, where Congress was a junior partner in an alliance, changed after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dumped the mahagathbandhan to join hands with the BJP.

File image of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. PTI

File image of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Considering how Congress has been trounced in most of the elections held in the past two years, Akhilesh's statement at the start of the year could serve as a major setback to the spirit of the Grand Old Party cadres who have been quite sprightly since Congress' performance in the recently-concluded Gujarat Assembly election.

"The 2019 election is certainly crucial as the message from Uttar Pradesh will go out to the entire country. As of now, I am not thinking of an alliance with any party. It (alliance talks and seat negotiations) wastes a lot of time and I don't want to be in confusion (over seats)," Akhilesh told PTI in an exclusive interview.

This is not the first for Congress when the party has been dropped as an ally or where Congress alliances haven't worked the magic that was expected from them.

Since 2014 general elections when the results knocked the wind out of its sails, Congress has been on a downfall. Although it did win Punjab from the BJP-SAD combined under the stewardship of Captain Amarinder Singh, its archrival BJP outwitted the party in Manipur and Goa to form the governments despite it being the single largest party. In the Gujarat election last year, it did put up a better than expected fight by joining hands with the Patel and Dalit leaders of the state. But it did not end its power drought in the state for over two decades.

Had it succeeded in toppling the BJP in Gujarat, it would have heralded the revival of the party and effectively weakened Prime Minister Narendra Modi's position in the run-up to the state elections this year and the general elections in 2019.

Since that option is no longer available, Congress faces a far more serious issue of survival as its political partners have slowly started deserting their elder brother.

Here's a look at Congress' strange coalition partners and how those alliances petered out:

Uttar Pradesh: Samajwadi Party and Congress decide to take on BJP together

Even though the SP and Congress never really formed any coalition government, it is an embarrassing turn of events considering the posturing the two parties did ahead of last year's elections. On 29 January last year, 'UP ke ladke' announced their 'gathbandhan' (alliance) at Taj Hotel in Lucknow. The occasion was jovial with back-slapping and high-fiving. The SP-Congress combine was trounced in the 2017 state elections, with the BJP and its allies winning 325 seats in the 403-member Assembly. While SP got 47 seats, the Congress won seven.

The SP contested 311 seats and the Congress contested 114 seats which included nine seats where both parties contested against each other. The idea was that each party’s votes in these seats it didn’t contest would go to the alliance partner. However, things didn't go as planned earlier. In these seats, Congress got over 54.16 lakh votes, an increase of about 13.86 lakh votes. More so, Congress got 34.39 percent more votes than they got last time from these seats.

News 18 reported that their votes went to other parties rather than helping them, thus allowing to sink the alliance at the hustings.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, Akhilesh said, the SP could bargain at a later stage if an alliance materialises, he said his style of politics is different and he is open to "friendships" with like-minded parties. Which party SP chooses as its next partner is for astrologers to guess, but it's the end of the road for Congress and SP.

Bihar: When Nitish left the mahagathbandhan to go with BJP

In July 2017, following several allegations of corruption against RJD (one of the three partners in the Grand Alliance in Bihar) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and his sons, Nitish decided to dump the mahagathbandhan. Nitish, on 26 July, submitted his resignation to the then state governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, saying indirectly that his tenure was no longer tenable as Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy chief minister who was facing corruption charges, had refused to resign.

Modi hailed Nitish's uncompromising stand on corruption and the BJP extended support to the JD(U) to form the next government in the state.

A file image of Rahul with his mother Sonia Gandhi. PTI

A file image of Rahul with his mother Sonia Gandhi. PTI

The impending split from the alliance had been the speculation for months and as this article in The Hindu rightly points it, when it happened "the only surprise was the swiftness and finality of the separation from Lalu Prasad's RJD — and of his (Nitish) embrace of the BJP which raised doubts about the reasons Nitish gave for jumping ships - corruption". Nitish was heavily criticised for being an opportunistic.

The Shahanbuddin case also impacted the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance in Bihar. Leaders cutting across political spectrum had told Firstpost then that if the situation continued to deteriorate it could unleash fresh realignment of political forces in the state, impacting the longevity of the Nitish Kumar-Tejashwi Yadav government — and it did.

To be honest, Congress was pretty much a sitting duck in Bihar. It had no hand in breaking or joining anything. In fact, the party was rather busy tackling infighting and dissent against the "party high-command". In fact, till November 2017, the party didn't even have a full time unit for Bihar Congress. The Bihar fiasco was a fall-out between Nitish and Lalu but Congress got dragged down as well.

Jharkhand: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha breaks away from Congress

In January 2013, JMM, which pulled out of a 28-month-old BJP-led coalition government, reached Delhi to secure an alliance with the Congress. Jharkhand plunged into a political crisis after the JMM withdrew support to the BJP and forced chief minister Arjun Munda to resign in January.

The JMM preferred a tie-up with the Congress to keep Babulal Marandi's Jharkhand Vikas Morcha away. It also wanted the chief minister's post for its leader Hemant Soren. But the Congress was wary of the JMM's poor record in keeping coalitions working.

The dispute between the JMM and the BJP was over the chief minister's post. The JMM alleged that a pact entitled it to the top post, halfway through the government's term. But Munda reportedly denied that such an agreement ever existed. Jharkhand has seen eight governments in the last 12 years.

Just a year later, however, in October 2014, the 475-days-old grand alliance broke away when the two parties decided to contest the 2014 state Assembly election on all 81 seats separately. While the JMM alleged that the Congress ditched them in the last minute, the alliance broke away over seat-sharing negotiation.


Updated Date: Jan 10, 2018 16:59 PM

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