The Congress on Thursday said that in the run-up to 2019, it would forge State-specific alliances to take on the challenge of a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This would include working towards building a stronger coalition in Uttar Pradesh with both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Saying this, Congress general secretary C.P. Joshi stressed, “Since 2014 (when the BJP won the general elections), the political narrative has changed and the manner of running elections has changed too. We need to frame a counter narrative to take on that challenge. But we will never change our ideology. ”
Dr. Joshi pointed to the urgent need to replicate the Bihar grand alliance in which the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress participated, and the understanding with the Left Parties in West Bengal in 2016.
Responding to a question on whether the Congress would ally with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, he said it could be considered. Asked how that could be an option given he had just said the Congress would never change its ideology, Dr. Joshi said, “Ideology and electoral politics are two separate things. There is a need to be pragmatic.”
Dr. Joshi’s controversial remark on the Shiv Sena comes in the midst of a raging debate in the Maharashtra unit of the Congress on the subject after the recent local elections there.
Awaiting Sonia’s return
Meanwhile, even as unhappiness with the party leadership was aired privately and publicly — if guardedly — Congress seniors said any official introspection on the election results and the party’s failure to form governments in Manipur and Goa, would have to await the return of Congress president Sonia Gandhi who is now abroad for a medical check-up.
Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala tweeted that party vice president Rahul Gandhi would also be travelling abroad to escort his mother back.
It is still not clear whether Mr Gandhi will take over as party president soon, with some speculation that he may take over as Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, replacing Mallikarjuna Kharge who is to take over as chairman of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC). If that happens, Jyotiraditya Scindia, currently Chief Whip may become Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha, replacing Captain Amarinder Singh.
All this comes in the wake of signs of dissent in public. For instance, former MP Priya Dutt tweeted on Wednesday: “Cong has shown repeatedly that it suffers from an autoimmune disease Cong destroys Cong we need to be treated from within to be healthy again”. In a subsequent interview to NDTV, Ms. Dutt said of Mr. Gandhi, “He is a good leader, he is trying to do his best….He is trying to lead the party in a certain direction, [but] it has not worked for a long time now.” she conceded. However, when she was asked whether Mr. Gandhi should be held responsible for the poor election results, she said, “Yes, Rahul Gandhi and other leaders in the state have to take responsibility (but) changing him or one person will not fix things”.
Others who have been critical in public since the results came in include former Union Ministers Kishore Chandra Deo and K.V. Thomas and the party’s former Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha, Sandeep Dikshit.