NEW DELHI: The Congress’ move to empower Rahul Gandhi to decide the 2019 poll alliances and project him as the party’s prime ministerial nominee was meant to avoid any ambiguity on the leadership issue and to send a clear message to allies ahead of the general elections. Party insiders said the CWC considered the pros and cons of the move before taking the decision knowing well that bringing around the regional parties to the idea might not be easy.
“This is Rahul’s Congress and he is our leader,” said a senior AICC functionary. The CWC decision is in sharp contrast to former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s efforts over the past few months to forge Opposition unity in her capacity as the Congress Parliamentary Party leader.
Congress strategists said they were aware of the prime ministerial ambitions of regional leaders like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, NCP president Sharad Pawar, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati, as also the fact that they were more comfortable dealing with Sonia Gandhi than Rahul.
“We clearly did not want two power centres within the party and the allies must also realize the new spirit in the party,” a CWC member said. “Rahul’s single-point agenda is to marshall all resources to oust the Modi government.”
Among the regional bigwigs, Banerjee has been the most vociferous in attacking PM Modi and the BJP. She has dabbled with the idea of a federal front and claimed at a rally in Kolkata on Sunday that her party was actually leading the anti-Modi league. The Congress played down the remarks, saying Banerjee shared the same pedigree and would not be too much of a hassle when it comes to forging Opposition unity.
“She belongs to the Congress family and shares the same values,” said a senior Congress leader.
Sources said alliances with BSP, SP and NCP would be sewn up in time while Rahul would soon take a call on how to proceed with TMC. In Bihar, the deal with RJD should face no problems as party chief Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi is leading the Opposition and has a good working relationship with Rahul.