NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid today cautioned opposition parties such as the SP and BSP against excluding the Congress from the alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 polls or making the party look like a "dwarf" in the state, saying such a move will be "myopic" and benefit the BJP.
He also said Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has given the message that "lets not get caught up" with the issue of opposition's prime ministerial candidate for now, as "collectively" winning the general election was the main focus.
In an interview to PTI, Khurshid said that this was "strategically" the best thing the Congress could have done to ensure that the BJP is not successful in creating gaps between the opposition parties as they work towards an alliance.
Khurshid, who has been Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief twice, asserted that parties should not write off the Congress in the state and it was important that it is part of an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to take on the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 polls.
Asked about talk of Congress being given very few seats in Uttar Pradesh or excluded from the grand alliance, Khurshid said, "I would think it will be very myopic.
I am not saying it because we stand to gain from the opposite view, but I think excluding the Congress or making Congress look (like a) dwarf in UP will be myopic." He said the BJP would also benefit if such a scenario pans out.
Khurshid said that it should be kept in mind that the Congress had done well in the state in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
"And we did that, while we still were considerably behind them (the SP and BSP) in vote share because the big cities voted for us in a major way. Today, at the worst, we are 7 per cent and they (SP and BSP) are three times our vote share. But if we were to go out on our own, we are not going to be 7 per cent, we will probably once again touch 10, 11 or 12 per cent that we have shown repeatedly we can touch," he said.
The SP and BSP can certainly go up to 24, 25 or to 26 per cent vote share, but it doesn't mean that the Congress is "nothing", the 65-year-old leader said.
It will not be correct to write-off the Congress as despite being battered repeatedly in polls, it has about 10 per cent vote in the state that has stuck to it which is crucial in many seats, Khurshid said.
"So, I believe that for a serious, sustainable alliance ...a government that is genuinely a good government for India in the next five years, a creative and constructive participation of the Congress is necessary and that participation will not be creative, constructive and substantive if UP is missing from it," he said.
There would be a risk in undermining Congress too much in UP and the projection of sustainability for five years will suffer if the Congress participation in the state is not a satisfactory one, the former Union minister said.
Khurshid, however, conceded that in forging state-specific alliances, in the long run, the Congress may end up ceding ground to regional parties.
Khurshid asserted that though striking alliances was the "dictate of our times", but somebody in the party will have to keep thinking of ten or 20 years down the road.
"In an alliance there is always a give and take, we cannot assume that an alliance will only be one way, that we will gain. Why will anyone give to us if we are to gain. An an alliance is a two way thing," he said.
On Congress indicating that the issue of the opposition's prime ministerial candidate will be decided after the outcome of the 2019 polls, he said, "The party's choice is explicit, it is transparent in his (Rahul Gandhi's) favour, but he has himself taken the lead in saying that lets not get embroiled and caught up in this futile argument just now, lets first collectively win this election (and then) we will sit down and talk."
Khurshid also hailed the changes brought about by Gandhi since taking over the party as president and said that his way of taking the old and the new guard along was the best path forward.
While noting that those who are active among the old guard of the party were being given positions of responsibility and respect, Khurshid said there were also "significant generational changes" with very bright young people from a fresh generation coming into their own.
"They are very very significant generational changes. Very bright young people from a fresh generation are coming into their own. And are coming with a sense of belonging, a sense of excitement and a sense of determination, and that is a good sign.
It is in the states as well as in the all India organisation," he said There was an unnecessary concern that this means the phasing out of the people who have been around for a while, but that has been put to rest with those who continue to be active and useful to the party given respectful positions, he said, adding, "I think it is an ideal mix of old and new."
Khurshid also lauded Gandhi for setting the agenda with issues of "big corruption", farmers' plight, lack of jobs and problems faced by Dalits, tribals, minorities and other weaker sections of the society.
Asked if alliances which are state-specific will be fragile at the central level, Khurshid said, "Our leader is working towards a stable alliance. Mr Rahul Gandhi is trying very hard to ensure that we don't just make a rag-tag alliance, but we make an alliance which is formidable, stable and substantive."