New Delhi: With less than a year for the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress is bereft of strong alliances that had propelled it to power in the last two polls.
Even as allies drifted away from it, the Congress is trying to acquire new ones. The recent visit of Finance Minister P Chidambaram to Bihar and his good equations with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is seen as Congress attempts to strike ties with the ruling JD(U) there.
Congress, which last week celebrated four years of UPA-II, has virtually no ally in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand which together account for some 210 out of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha.
In UPA-II, Congress last year lost as many as four allies, two of them major ones--Trinamool Congress and DMK, which were the second and third largest in the alliance. DMK had been in the UPA since 2004.
Other two minor parties which have walked out of the UPA are Babulal Marandi`s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) from Jharkhand and AIMIM from Andhra Pradesh, primarily for local reasons.
A representative of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had attended the UPA`s fourth anniversary function last week, but Congress appears to be divided on the issue of alliance with JMM in the tribal dominated state.
"Whenever we will take a decision, we will let you know", is the stock answer of senior leader A K Antony to questions about the search for new allies.
He is heading a crucial group of party leaders on the issue of exploring new friends. The group is part of the Election Coordination Committee headed by party Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
The other members of the pre-poll-alliances sub-group are M Veerappa Moily, Mukul Wasnik, Suresh Pachouri, Jitendra Singh and Mohan Prakash. The sub-group had only one meeting since being set up some six months back.
Party spokespersons also speak in abstract when queried about possible allies. "You do not make appeal to friends. You extend a hand and that is reciprocated from the other side. Our hand has been extended," they say.