NEW DELHI: In order to stop the Narendra Modi-led BJP from winning the second consecutive term at the Centre, the Congress party under Rahul Gandhi might contest the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections on a lesser number of seats. According to sources, the Congress party is expected to contest the crucial general elections on 250 seats – the lowest since Independence.
If the sources are to be believed, this is being done to accommodate more non-BJP parties as part of its ongoing efforts to stitch a 'grand alliance' or 'mahagathbandhan' of like-minded parties to oust the saffron party from power.
The Rahul Gandhi-led party is believed to have prepared a blueprint on seat-sharing with other political parties for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The AK Antony-led committee, which has been tasked to prepare the roadmap for the 2019 elections, has sought feedback from the district and state committees of Congress on people's expectations and challenges facing the party.
The committee will finalise the 2019 plan only after holding wider consultations with party's district, state and national office bearers and, eventually, party chief Rahul Gandhi.
A section of the party is of the view that Congress should contest 2019 elections on a lesser number of seats - 250 - and give more presentation to the regional parties which are willing to join 'mahagathbandhan' to take on the formidable BJP.
Another line of thinking calls for fielding only winnable candidates with a clean image so as to increase the chances of the 'mahagathbandhan' getting more seats than the BJP-led alliance. Accordingly, the party will not share the 44 Lok Seats, which it won in the 2014 Lok Sabha despite a strong Narendra Modi wave, with anyone.
Since big states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat send a large number of elected representatives to Lok Sabha, the Congress party will revise its strategy and engage the booth-level workers to dent BJP's poll prospects in these states.
Being the largest constituent in the Mahagathbandhan, the party would offer more representation to regional parties in respective assembly elections but will take the lead at the national levels, according to the plan.
Based on its past experience of contesting joint elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where it fought along with RJD, BSP, Samajwadi Party etc, the party will hold a series of consultations before arriving at a consensus on seat-sharing for 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had recently said that the 'Mahagathbandhan' of the like-minded parties is the need of the hour to take on the ruling BJP.
''The grand alliance of the Opposition parties to take on the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not just the sentiment of politicians but also of the people,'' Rahul Gandhi had said in Mumbai. The Gandhi scion said that his party is trying to join together these voices and the work is going on.
However, the road ahead is not easy for the Congress in view of talks initiated by Telangana Chief Minister and TRS chief KC Rao on forming a 'Federal Front' as an alternative to the BJP and the Congress.
After a spirited campaign in Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi was virtually absent from the scene in the Northeast, barring Meghalaya. Congress' regional allies like Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party and RJD virtually stole the show in the recent Lok Sabha bypolls in Kairana and Nurpur and assembly by-elections on ten seats. BJP could win only three seats in these polls.
Though Rahul Gandhi has openly expressed his desire to be the Prime Minister, there is still no consensus among the grand alliance partners on who will be the face for 2019 polls.
This year is crucial for the Congress chief who will now lead his party in elections in big states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
His ability to win elections will also determine if senior leaders like Mamata Banerjee, who has not been forthcoming with her views on the Congress chief, see in him a national leader.
Mamata had earlier blamed the Congress for providing "oxygen" to the BJP in Tripura and said that the party declined her offer for an alliance.
While the Third Front is still in the works, Rahul Gandhi must prove his winning credentials if he hopes to stitch a formidable alliance to challenge the BJP in 2019.