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Ambitious Allies, PM Throne and Congress Revival: Rahul Gandhi's Plate is Full Ahead of 2019

Congress’ big challenge comes not only from BJP and Narendra Modi, but also regional parties, and that’s why it’s important for Rahul Gandhi to look to invoke the ‘Congress Asmita’ (pride).

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:July 23, 2018, 7:24 AM IST
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Ambitious Allies, PM Throne and Congress Revival: Rahul Gandhi's Plate is Full Ahead of 2019
Rahul Gandhi with Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu and other regional leaders. (PTI Photo)
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New Delhi: At Rahul Gandhi’s first Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting as the party president and with his team in place, the party on Sunday made a strong pitch for going back to its 2004 position as the pivot for an alliance against BJP.

However, it is to be noted here that the times have changed and it’s been 14 years since. Narendra Modi is no Vajpayee and the Modi-Amit Shah duo seems almost invincible. Plus, other regional players nurture national ambitions and are not too keen to let Congress have its way.

Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee, for example, have ambitions to become the prime minister instead of playing second fiddle to the Congress under Rahul’s leadership.

Congress’ big challenge comes not only from BJP and Narendra Modi, but also regional parties, and that’s why it’s important for Rahul Gandhi to look to invoke the ‘Congress Asmita’ (pride).

Congress on Sunday announced its decision to give the party president a free hand in stitching alliances but with the rider that Congress will play the lead role and Rahul will be the leader of any such tie-ups.

Senior leader Raj Babbar said, “Only Congress can oppose BJP and RSS. Congress is not just a party, it is an ideology. Congress president Rahul Gandhi will decide everything about alliances.”

However, this may be easier said than done.

Rahul Gandhi clearly wants to do what Sonia did in 2004 and be the lead player in the grand alliance. In 2004, the opposition was scattered and didn’t have the might to assert its position. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee was yet to come to power while Ram Vilas Paswan and DMK were still not significantly big players in their respective states and happily responded to Sonia’s efforts to form the UPA.

Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, has a tougher task at hand.

Firstly, Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin, Mayawati and even Akhilesh Yadav have ambitions that wouldn’t let them bow to those of the Congress. Secondly, Rahul is no Sonia. The fact that she spoke of the need to come together to fight the BJP is an indication to the fact that she would have to be the cohesive force to once again bring the allies together.

Congress is caught in a bind. Political and harsh reality has made it clear for the party that it needs to stitch strategic alliances and set up a group to look into these needs with Rahul Gandhi taking the final call.

Yet, Congress has to send a message to its cadre that it won’t bend backward to please them. Rajasthan Congress leader, Sachin Pilot has said, “We will have strategic alliances but Congress will have to play the lead role.”

After forming the government in Karnataka, despite getting more seats than the JD(S), Congress promptly opted out of the CM bid. The move left the party cadre angry and confused as this was the same Rahul Gandhi who had joined politics with the belief that power is poison and nothing should be done to compromise the Congress pride.

Today, Rahul is fighting for this ‘Asmita’ while also accepting the need for other parties to join its bid for power in 2019. At the CWC, it was also an assertion of Rahul's leadership. He, very strongly, said that action would be taken against those who speak out of turn and anyone who affects the party’s chances.

Sunday’s CWC clearly put across two points: Congress needs partners and allies on its journey to 2019, it can no longer wage a lonely war against the BJP. And, the Grand Old Party of India needs to fight for its ‘Asmita’.
| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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