Lok Sabha elections 2019: Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that a group will be formed to take a call on alliances in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
"We are setting up a group to do it," Gandhi told reporters on Sunday after a meeting of Congress Working Committee, the party's highest decision making body, which authorised him to decide on pre and post-poll alliances.
The party's decision is being seen as an unambigious message to all present and potential allies that he will take all crucial decisions for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls including on seat sharing.
Some leaders, including Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, are learnt to have more comfort level in interacting with Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi, who is UPA chairperson.
Sonia Gandhi had hosted a dinner for like-minded opposition parties in March this year to explore the possibility of forging a broader unity. Earlier, she had taken the initiative to bring senior opposition leaders together to put up a common candidate in Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections.
On the other hand, the Iftar he hosted was skipped by most opposition stalwarts.
The CWC decision is being seen as an indication that Rahul Gandhi should emerge as the face of larger opposition in the 2019 electoral battle.
Alliances are crucial for the Congress to defeat the BJP, which won a majority on its own in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and has since won several state assembly polls.
While Congress has a direct contest with BJP in several states, it has a difficult choice in forging alliances in some others, like West Bengal, where it state unit is divided on whether it should ally with the Trinamool Congress or the Left parties.
Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said that her party would like to win all 42 seats, leaving little scope for a tie-up, but not aligning with her will have its own implications as she is emerging as pivot for a Federal Front.
Then in Uttar Pradesh, where the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party have talked of an alliance, the Congress may be left with very few seats.
Sonia Gandhi had deftly forged alliances before the 2004 Lok Sabha polls and had ousted the BJP-led NDA in an unexpected outcome.
It is pertinent to mention here that less than a year is left when 17th Lok Sabha elections will take place in the month of April-May next year and Congress party is desperately searching for alliance so that it can defeat NDA.
The Congress party's pursuit to stich a larger anti-BJP alliance for Lok Sabha elections 2019 is already facing challenges from quarters within. Recently, party was confronted with massive rumblings within its West Bengal unit where the state leadership is bitterly divided over alliance options.
While one section of the West Bengal Congress led by party chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is advocating a pact with the opposition left front in the state, another camp led by Congress secretary and local MLA Mainul Haque has batted for an alliance with the ruling TMC.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had to meet all state leaders individually earlier this week to dissipate the crisis amid possibilities of Haque and some of his supporters switching over to the Mamata Banerjee led TMC, should Gandhi decide to go with the Left.
"We will not quit the Congress and will await the decision of Congress President Rahul Gandhi before taking any decision," Haque told PTI.
He felt no vote transfer to the Congress happened in the last assembly poll after the party aligned with CPI-M. "It will be suicidal to go with the CPI(M) again as it has no standing in the state anymore today," he said.
Chowdhury, however, said his aim is to strengthen the party and all should work towards it.
"Some legislators have left the party and if some more are inclined to leave, no one can stop them."
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In the Delhi unit of the Congress too, the state party leadership has categorically ruled out any alliance with the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) even though Gandhi is yet to make his mind known.
Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken has accused the AAP of being "hand-in-glove" with the BJP and having allied with the RSS through the 2011 Anna Hazare movement to unseat the then Congress-led UPA.
Similar is the situation in party-ruled Punjab, where the state leadership is totally against any truck with the AAP.
In Rajathan and Madhya Pradesh, although the Congress is trying to forge ties with the BSP to prevent the division of anti-BJP vote, early reports do not signal much of a success.
Even for Madhya Pradesh, not all Congress leaders are endorsing an alliance with the BSP.
Former CWC member Anil Shastri has said that any pact with the BSP would prove "suicidal" for the party in Madhya Pradesh. Shastri questions the rationale behind the alliance citing the meagre BSP presence in the state assembly.
The lobby advocating the pact in MP, however, says the Mayawati-led outfit has enough of a vote share to swing the poll.
Internal discussions are on in the party around questions such as whether to ally with the BSP, to what extent to ally or not to ally at all and go alone.
The party has made it clear that it will not hamper the interests of its state leaders while forging alliances across the country.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has said that the party will not go for any alliance at the cost of its leaders in states.
In Rajasthan too, PCC chief Sachin Pilot is not in favour of an alliance with the BSP and wants the Congress to go it alone.
The BSP, however, has already announced its plans of going with the INLD in Haryana in 2019 polls.
In Uttar Pradesh, however, the Congress is ready for being a part of the "mahagathbandhan" but is weary of the intentions of the SP and BSP, who don't want the Congress to be given a bigger share in the seat-sharing in 2019.
The Congress is more or less settled in Karnataka with JDS, where it has a broad seat-sharing understanding with its new-found ally.
But, rumblings with its old partner RJD are brewing over the inclusion of JDU in the 'mahagathbandhan' again.
(With inputs from agencies)