Two meetings on Thursday, one in the national capital and the other in the Tamil Nadu capital, signalled that the Congress has actively begun the search for election partners.

Ten days after Lalu Prasad met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi received the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader at his home in New Delhi, triggering speculation about a patch-up between the former allies. The Congress did not reveal details of the meeting. A party general secretary would confirm only that it had taken place.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, meanwhile, arrived in Chennai to meet DMK leader M. Karunanidhi.

Mr. Azad played down suggestions they had talked about an election alliance, stressing instead the long partnership between the two parties. The DMK has said it would not ally with the Congress.

The meeting between Mr. Prasad and Mr. Gandhi came after frenetic efforts by the former Bihar Chief Minister to mend fences with the Congress. Party sources said Mr. Prasad was with Mr. Gandhi for a few minutes. The Congress does not appear to be in a hurry to announce an alliance.

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