NEW DELHI: At a time when the five state Assembly elections---Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Mizoram, Telangana---are being described as a semi-final for the 2019 parliamentary polls, the Congress has managed to queer the pitch with its refusal to accommodate the regional parties.

The grand coalition being projected for the Lok Sabha polls has fallen apart with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party both attributing this to “the arrogance and over-confidence” of the Congress that is certain now of winning Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Although Congress leader Digvijay Singh was blamed for the failure of talks for a regional coalition in the states, it appears now to be a Congress party strategy ahead of the parliamentary polls. Based on conviction that the party will surge ahead in at least two states, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress hopes to increase its bargaining power in West Bengal, Maharashtra, UP, Bihar where the regional parties exist. And in the process project Congress president Rahul Gandhi as consensus Prime Minister.

However, this stance just before the state elections has weakened the unity that was created after the Karnataka Assembly elections. The spirit of bonhomie was visible in the swearing in of Janata Dal (S) leader H.D.Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister of the state, with all Opposition parties attending. The same spirit marked Opposition relations in and out of Delhi.

No sooner were the state elections announced, that the camraderie has disappeared. The Nationalist Congress Party has already made it clear that it expects an equal share of the seats for the Lok Sabha polls, 24-24 of the total 48. As NCP sources pointed out, “we had got four MP’s and the Congress only two, so where is the question of them contesting more seats than us.” NCP leader Sharad Pawar had earlier suggested that a team of senior leaders including him, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former PM H.D.Deve Gowda should campaign across the country and create a ‘mahaul’ against the BJP government. He said that none of them were aspiring for the PM post. However, the Congress ignored this suggestion.

More recently Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar said that he was willing to work closely with the Congress in Maharashtra. He said that he had suggested that 12 seats where the Congress has lost steadily in the last four Lok Sabha polls should be given to his candidates to firm this arrangement. But the Congress again did not respond and as Ambedkar said, “I waited for four and a half months, and have no idea who takes the decisions in that party.”

BSP leader Mayawati, angry with the Congress for not giving her sufficient seats in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, has decided to go it alone. Samajwadi party sources said that their alliance in UP with the BSP was firm. And that leader Akhilesh Yadav had made it repeatedly clear that “he is prepared to make any sacrifice to defeat the BJP.” However, the sources said that the Congress has fallen silent recently and the dialogue has not moved. “The Congress thinks it will win MP and Rajasthan, and this arrogance is so visible now,” the sources said. SP spokesperson Faizan Kidwai said, “our alliance with the BSP is firm, I cannot say about the Congress party.”

The Congress leaders are of the view that there is sufficient time after these polls to stitch together an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls. As the regional parties, in its view, need this coalition more than the Congress. However, in UP the BSP that is in talks with the SP does not need the Congress party and will tie up with smaller outfits like the Rashtriya Lok Dal with Ajit Singh and others. In Bihar the Rashtriya Janata Dal is in touch with both the BSP and SP. In both these states that together carry about 120 seats the Congress remains a ‘junior’ party.

In Delhi Aam Aadmi Party has indicated that it will not ally with the Congress party, AAP had explored this option but the overwhelming sentiment within remains anti BJP and anti Congress, with the fledgling party “suffering” at the hands of both.