New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi is coming under tremendous pressure from party's die-hard ‘secular’ leaders who are flooding 10 Janpath with letters pleading that the Congress be a part of the coalition government in Maharashtra under the chief ministership of Shiv Sena.
Many of them have urged her not to go by what veterans like A K Antony, Mallikarjun Kharge and K C Venugopal have to say about the political risk of joining hands with a Hindutva party, asserting that they are not able to grasp the new reality.
At the same time, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, too, is exerting a kind of subtle pressure on the Congress leadership. Sources said the Maratha leader was quite upset on Monday after meeting Gandhi as she reportedly insisted on going by the trio's advice to extend only conditional outside support.
Pawar preferred to wait, giving her more time to consult other Congress leaders, insisting that his prime concern is stability and longevity of the government, which can only accrue if the Congress is part of the coalition government.
Those who have written to Sonia point out that the Shiv Sena and the NCP would occupy the political space vacated by the Congress if she insists on only outside support.
Furthermore, parties which decide to participate in the government have much more clout; by staying out, the Congress clout may diminish to what it is in Uttar Pradesh today.
One of them has even underlined that the Congress can gain politically at the all-India level by disengaging Hindus from the RSS ideology; this opportunity has come now that the Shiv Sena is deserting the BJP and is willing to join hands with the NCP; the Congress should, therefore, go with the flow.
She was urged not to suspect the secular credentials of Pawar and his intent behind wanting the Congress to be part of the new coalition government.
Another senior Congress leader from Maharashtra has warned her that any delay in taking a decision will give advantage to the BJP, so that it can entice newly elected MLAs from the Congress and other parties; this leader has reminded her how the BJP enticed MLAs of both the Congress and the Janata Dal(S) in Karnataka to recapture power in the state.
NCP sources said Pawar has warned Sonia that inordinate delay on her part may even give Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah a good reason to dissolve the Assembly and force fresh elections.
NO HURDLES: Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has claimed that there are no hurdles and the talks with the Congress were progressing in the right direction. He said such talks always take time, particularly since those engaging in the process had only recently fought bitterly in the elections.
Talking to reporters here, he said the six-month President's rule has given enough time to the parties to sort out their differences before formally staking claim to form the government. He also indicated that the new government may take oath only in the first week of December.
The Congress sources said Ahmed Patel, who also met the Shiv Sena chief in Mumbai last week, is keen that the Congress be part of the new government. They said he has been Sonia's political secretary and she had specially picked him to lead the team sent to Mumbai for the talks.
His advice to her may seal the deal, they said, pointing out that Patel sees advantage to him as AICC treasurer to raise funds for the party from the financial capital of the country if the Congress is part of the new coalition government.