Congress’ Media Head Randeep Surjewala believes that while the party has a time-tested policy of working with other ideologically compatible parties, it will not abandon the interests of its state leaders.
While nation-wide parties are putting their heads together to formulate a coalition strong enough to beat the current NDA government in 2019 elections, the Congress party has thrown caution to the winds and said that it will not ignore the interests of its state leaders for the sake of regional tie-ups.
“The Indian National Congress will never sacrifice the interests of a state leadership and aspirations of its workers. An ideal balance will be struck on a state to state basis,” Surjewala told PTI. He advocated state-specific alliances while arguing for a grander coalition with like-minded parties for the sake of ‘national interest’.
“A committee headed by Congress member and former Minister of Defense AK Antony will take the final call on the formation of alliances after discussions with Congress state leaders,” said Surjewala.
As the Congress pursues an anti-NDA grouping, it will have to consider the possibility of regional parties demanding a bigger stake in the seat-sharing talks.
While striving for state-specific alliances for the 2019 general elections will not pose a problem in some states such as Karnataka, where the party already has a pact with the JD(S); the Congress will have have to work on creating a fine balance in some other areas.
West Bengal is one such area, where the state Congress leadership has been openly attacking TMC honcho Mamata Banerjee for “murdering democracy” in the recent panchayat polls. West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has been issuing statements against Banerjee, who has been projecting herself as an important pillar for any anti-BJP structure for 2019. The Congress will now have to factor in the views of its Bengal leadership while building any understanding in the state either with the TMC or the Left.
In Punjab and Delhi, the Congress state units have rejected suggestions for alignment with the AAP. Delhi Congress Chief Ajay Makan has said the party does not need any ally in the state. AICC Punjab in-charge Asha Kumari similarly, has dismissed talks of a possible alliance with AAP as “baseless” in the state.
In Rajasthan, state Congress Chief Sachin Pilot has indicated that party would prefer to go solo while a section of Congress leaders has been advocating a pact with the BSP.
Though in election-bound Madhya Pradesh, state Congress president Kamal Nath is in talks with the BSP for the upcoming Assembly election, it remains to be seen whether Congress will be willing to give up the number of seats BSP chief Mayawati has been seeking. In UP, too, Congress will be faced with a difficulty in seat sharing as the RLD, BSP, and SP have shown that they can lead the race to defeat BJP without aligning with the Congress.
In election-bound Chhattisgarh, the Congress is has a new rival — former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi. The Congress leadership is still debating whether to ally with him.
The Grand Old Party may find it easy to negotiate in states such as Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir where it has already worked with the RJD, DMK, NCP, and NC respectively in the past.
The allies have also been putting pressure on the Congress to be more flexible in its negotiations. Opposition leaders have said the Congress will have to show openness and ensure that it gives space to other parties.