With LS polls just 3 weeks away, Congress yet to seal alliances

The first phase of polling for the Lok Sabha election is barely three weeks away, but the Congress is yet to seal its alliances in the crucial States of West Bengal, Bihar and Delhi that together have 89 seats.Former Chief Minister and Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit reiterated her strong opposition to a tie-up with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, even as other leaders made last-ditch efforts to work out one for the seven Lok Sabha seats.Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar could emerge as a key facilitator in bringing the two parties together.Clarity in two daysThe picture on the State-level alliances between Opposition parties would be clear in the next two days, said a source, but Congress leaders were confident about the alliance in Bihar remaining intact. On Tuesday morning, Mr. Pawar held separate discussions with Congress president Rahul Gandhi, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and AAP leader Sanjay Singh at his Delhi residence.The Congress president, accompanied by Mallikarjun Kharge, met the NCP chief to iron out the differences over a handful of seats between the two parties that have already agreed on the 26-22 formula in Maharashtra (the Congress 26 and the NCP 22).But it is learnt that the need to forge an alliance with the AAP in Delhi also figured in the discussions. Mr. Sanjay Singh, a Rajya Sabha member, who has been in touch with Congress leaders, also had a separate meeting with Mr. Pawar. Mr. Pawar’s meeting with Mr. Yechury was to resolve the differences over the Dindori Lok Sabha constituency in Nashik district, which is part of the NCP’s quota. The CPI(M) is keen on contesting the seat. The two leaders are learnt to have discussed “broader” alliances on a day when the Left Front in West Bengal made overtures to the Congress by leaving out four Lok Sabha constituencies where the party had won in 2014. After the talks collapsed in the State, the Congress announced 11 names, including Raiganj and Murshidabad, seats now held by the CPI(M).Bihar situationIn Bihar, Congress leaders expressed confidence that the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress alliance would be intact, despite the RJD suggesting that the Congress come down from its quota of 11 seats to accommodate other allies. “When two parties come together in a State, there is always some competitiveness, but our alliance is intact,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.