NEW DELHI: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has so far being a key architect of the Congress’s economic policy, will now devise the political strategy to revive the party in two key areas — Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East. The Northeastern states and Sikkim have a total of 25 Lok Sabha seats while J&K has five. Hence, the focus on the two regions ahead of the 2019 national polls, said party insiders. Singh, who has only been coming out in public to attack the Modi government’s economic policy, will now provide crucial inputs to counter the BJP in the two regions. The former PM, who heads the crucial Congress group on Kashmir policy, was named as the patron of the North-East Congress Coordination Committee (NECC), recently reconstituted by party chief Rahul Gandhi.
The N-E region comprising seven states was once a Congress bastion but the BJP has now become a major player, ruling directly or through alliances in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura after the 2014 national polls. “We need to seriously rework our strategy there,” said a party insider, acknowledging that losing senior Assam leader Himanta Biswa Sarma to the BJP was a blunder. Sarma has played a key role in BJP’s rise in the region.
Congress veteran CP Joshi, who is the in-charge of the NE region, has been made a special invitee in the NECC, headed by former Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma. Post the breakup of the PDP-BJP alliance in J&K and imposition of Governor’s rule, Manmohan Singh recently reviewed the Congress strategy in the crucial state and has asked the state unit to prepare for the Assembly polls. Singh has also asked the party’s Kashmir policy group to visit Kargil and Ladakh to assess the mood of the voters there and obtain feedback on where the party stands. For the Jammu region, from where the bulk of the Congress votes come, he has asked the party managers to highlight the achievements of the previous National Conference-Congress government in the state and the financial aid extended by the previous UPA government at the Centre when he was PM.
“The PDP-BJP government did nothing over the past three years and destroyed the state. The people must compare this with the work done by our government,” a senior AICC functionary said. Regaining the lost ground in polarised Jammu is another challenge the Congress managers have to overcome ahead of the Assembly polls, sources said.