NEW DELHI: Ignored by the Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party (BSP-SP) alliance in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is taking the opportunity to revive the fortunes of the ‘Grand Old Party’ in the state and is preparing for a solo show ahead of the 2019 national polls, according to party insiders who were privy to strategy discussions.
Since UP sends the largest number of members — 80 of the total 543 — to the Lok Sabha, Rahul had been keen on stitching together an Opposition alliance of the Congress-BSP-SP-RLD to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, the BSP and SP have almost finalised a pact for the coming Lok Sabha polls keeping the Congress out.
One of the insiders cited above said Rahul thought the situation has presented the party with an opportunity to revive its organisation in the state. The party’s state unit has already started groundwork and has held booth-level conventions with workers over the past few weeks. Feedback on potential party nominees for various Lok Sabha seats has also been sought from the local workers. Besides, party strategists have planned to field former United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ministers like Salman Khurshid, RPN Singh, Jitin Prasada and state unit chief Raj Babbar from their respective strongholds Farrukhabad, Padrauna, Dhaurara and Agra.
“It is time to go back to the people and see what we can do for them,” said Khurshid.
Former Lok Sabha member from Barabanki in eastern UP PL Punia too had been making noises against a pre poll-pact with the BSP. Rahul indicated the same thing in an interview he gave to a foreign publication. “There are very interesting things that the Congress party can do in Uttar Pradesh...the Congress idea is very powerful for Uttar Pradesh. So, we are very confident of our ability and we will surprise people,” he told the Gulf News.
Party strategists said a major support base for the Congress could come from the minority segment which is miffed with the BJP’s communal politics including issues like the beef-ban and the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
“Our district unit heads have always maintained that we fight the national elections on our own strength. This will rejuvenate the organisation and our traditional supporters,” said a senior UP Congress leader. Citing another benefit of going solo, a senior AICC functionary said the revival would help the party win its traditional vote banks of Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits.