If it gets seats below this number, “we will sit in the opposition” a top Congress leader told Business Standard clearing all ambiguity over leadership and strategy.
The party will not support anyone else as prime minister from the outside.
This means no third front government is possible.
That all senior leaders in the party were singing the same tune suggests this is a strategic decision and Congress wants to clear confusion on this score.
Gandhi himself had told reporters that he didn’t want to marry, didn’t want to lead the country and wanted to dedicate his life to serving the party and the people’. In an agency report, he had virtually ruled himself out of the race for the top job.
Gandhi’s motivation in making this statement was to ensure the authority of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in saddle, was not undermined, party sources claimed. “Why should he say it? It is we who should be saying it” a party leader said.
After internal brainstorming and complaints from party workers that if the Nehru Gandhi family—which alone could keep the party together—was not going to take the top job again there was no point in working in the campaign, the leadership decided to intervene and introduce clarity on the leadership issue.
A small group has decided that it is more important to focus on how to get 160 seats in extremely adverse circumstances rather than give workers another issue to agonise over.
The accent is on repairing and fixing alliances towards that end.
The party is not ruling out any alliance with anyone, no matter how small. But they concede that tie-ups will be struck only after the elections, not before.
“Today, because of a ten-year anti incumbency, nobody wants to be seen in our company. If we return to the Lok Sabha with 170 seats, all our estranged partners will be by our side” said a party leader.
Among the allies the party visualises after the 2014 elections is Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Jharkhand. The Trinamul Congress, they believe, will have no option but to ally with the Congress, they say, because it cannot be part of any grouping that has the Left Front in it.
However, the Congress is clear that allies have to come to it on its terms. Therefore, no matter how angry Mulayam Singh Yadav might be with Congress Minister Beni Prasad Verma, there is no question of sacking Verma, these sources said. Verma has been attacking Yadav gratuitously, leading to souring of ties between the SP and the Congress even though they are allies.
“We have done a lot for all sections of India. People have to take a total view of all the work the UPA has done. When they do that and see our offering: a new youthful face and a new team to lead India, they will flock to us on their own”, these sources said.
They added that Rahul Gandhi will become generally more accessible—to the media, to people, to young people—in the next six to eight weeks. He is likely to address a press conference soon.