New Delhi: Virtually kicking of its campaign for the 2019 elections, the Congress on Sunday said it will oust the BJP-led alliance from power and authorised party chief Rahul Gandhi to take a final decision on both pre and post-poll alliances.
Rahul Gandhi was also announced the party’s face and Prime Ministerial candidate.
The Congress’ decision to forge state-to-state alliances as also a larger alliance was taken at the meeting of an extended Congress Working Committee, also attended by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which discussed a poll strategy with a heavy focus on farmers, youth, women, minorities, backward classes and other weaker sections.
The decision about Rahul Gandhi being the final word on alliances came amid perceptions that Sonia Gandhi had a wider acceptability among present and potential allies and was better placed to negotiate with them.
The CWC discussed preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as also its readiness to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh – where elections will be held at the end of this year. It also discussed Mizoram where elections are due this year.
With the party having suffered electorally due to “indiscreet remarks” of some of its leaders close to elections, Rahul Gandhi emphasised on “gravitas of the language and conduct” and to keeping the party line in mind while making statements.
While he asked party workers not to leave any stone unturned to oust the “failed” Narendra Modi government, party sources said several leaders stressed the need to strengthen the party at the booth-level, and outpace the BJP in poll management.
Announcing the decisions on alliances, Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said the party President was also authorised to form a small committee for the purpose, if needed as well as campaign committees and other panels for 2019 elections.
Sources said Gandhi is likely to form a committee with a leader from each state to get feedback on alliances.
The issue of alliances, which is crucial for Congress to come to power again, saw “widespread discussion at the CWC meeting,” said Surjewala, adding that Rahul Gandhi told the meeting that he will negotiate in this regard “without compromising on the interests of Congress” as also the national interest and had no hesitation in forging a “larger alliance”.
Asked about party’s stance to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s call to people to give all 42 Lok Sabha seats to Trinamool Congress, Surjewala said her statement should not be taken as final posture.
Asked if Rahul Gandhi will be face of the election, he said: “Congress will fight this election under the stewardship, leadership and by putting forward our leader Rahul Gandhi. On that we neither have a doubt, nor we have any second thoughts.
“Naturally the people of India will decide once the Congress becomes the single largest party, touches the magic figure of 200 or more… Naturally the Congress President will be the only face to be projected.
Meanwhile, in her remarks at the meeting, Sonia Gandhi cited “the reign of despair and fear heaped upon India’s deprived and poor” and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rhetoric “shows his desperation reflecting that reverse countdown of Modi government has begun”.
Manmohan Singh said the BJP-led NDA was unlikely to reach the average growth rate achieved by the UPA government.
The CWC also decided to support demand for special category status to Andhra Pradesh, while
Surjewala said it identified some core issues affecting people – farmers’ distress, unemployment, performance of economy, “atrocities” on Dalits, tribals, and women, “indifference” to OBCs, “failure on foreign policy”, continued disturbance in Kashmir, “lack of institutional integrity” and situation in the northeast – and decided to build a mass movement.
About 35 members spoke in the meeting that lasted nearly five hours and was the first of the CWC re-constituted by Rahul Gandhi.