In a more than subtle message to its allies, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said that being in coalition at the Centre does not mean the party should give up efforts to strengthen itself and abdicate its political space.

“We have made alliances with different parties at the Centre and in states. We do respect our allies. But it does not mean that we stop efforts to grow our organisation or abdicate our political space,” Ms. Gandhi said in her opening address at the day-long AICC session here.

Asking partymen to unitedly prepare for the assembly elections in 10 states due next year and in 2012, she said these electoral battles are a “very big test” for the party. “We have to prepare ourselves at the grassroot level”.

The party has seen several ups and downs and “our strength has been tested several times...There is no other party in the country which has its presence in every village, block and district,” Ms. Gandhi said.

Her remarks are significant in view of the fact that already a tussle is on between the party and the Trinamool Congress, led by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, over the issue of alliance for West Bengal assembly polls next year.

Party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi has given ample hints that the party would go for an “alliance with honour,” a view the AICC says is applicable everywhere.

In Tamil Nadu, which also goes to the polls next year, a section of the Congress wants the party to go it alone without aligning with any of the Dravidian parties, DMK or AIADMK. At present, Congress is in alliance with the ruling DMK which has not given it a share in power despite depending upon its support in the state.

In Uttar Pradesh, which will go to polls in 2012, Congress has already announced that it would go it alone after its campaign in the Lok Sabha elections led by Rahul Gandhi yielded 22 of the 80 seats to the party, taking it to the revival path in the crucial state of the Hindi heartland.

This was the first meeting of the AICC after Congress-led UPA again came back to power at the Centre in the May 2009 parliamentary elections, crossing the 200-mark in the Lok Sabha after several years.

More In: National | News