Rahul Gandhi steps up 2014 general elections plan



New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has stepped up preparations for the general elections with a panel to explore pre-poll alliances meeting on Friday and another on coordination issues likely to meet Saturday.

Keen to return to power with the third edition of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, the general agreement in the party is that it needs to have healthy alliances with friends and allies while reaching out to different sections of society, said party sources.

The issue of alliances was discussed at the introspection-cum-strategy session 'Chintan Shivir' in Jaipur Jan 18-20 where party chief Sonia Gandhi urged the workers to respect allies but not at the expense of rejuvenating the Congress and expressed concern at the party's eroding traditional support base.

The Congress's Jaipur Declaration called on all secular forces to unite in its ideological battle against divisive forces.

The states where the Congress is looking for alliances in the run-up to the next Lok Sabha elections scheduled in 2014 are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and some northeastern states.

The Congress has been out of power in major states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar for decades, while it broke up its alliance with the Trinamool Congress at the centre and in West Bengal last year.

Among the 12-odd states where the Congress rules, only Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Assam are major. In Maharashtra, it is in an uneasy coalition with the Nationalist Congress Party.

Rahul Gandhi, who met All India Congress Committee office-bearers last week to obtain feedback on how to strengthen the organisation, will take the exercise further with a meeting of state unit chiefs and state legislative party leaders Feb 15.

He is expected to make changes in the organisation to ready a team which will have a mix of youth and experience for the 2014 polls.

Party sources said the panels on alliances and coordination have just started meeting and would have many more sessions in the future.

Among those who will assist Rahul Gandhi in the poll coordination panel are leaders Digvijaya Singh, Janardan Dwivedi, Madhusudan Mistry, Ahmed Patel and Jairam Ramesh.

Other members of the pre-poll alliances sub-group are M. Veerappa Moily, Mukul Wasnik, Suresh Pachauri, Jitendra Singh and Mohan Prakash.

Both the groups were formed days after the Congress conclave ('Samvad Baithak') in Surjakund near here Nov 9 last year.

IANS