Congress president Rahul Gandhi blew the bugle for the 2019 general election as he chaired his first marathon meeting of the newly-reconstituted Congress Working Committee on Sunday, that lasted five hours. The CWC authorised the Congress president to decide on forging of alliances to stop the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah electoral juggernaut. Mr Gandhi told reporters later that the process had already begun: “We are setting up a group to look into alliances.”
Thirty-eight party leaders spoke at the meeting, stressing that the Congress should play a lead role in forging an anti-BJP front. Mr Gandhi also said that in the short term “we can defeat the BJP by forging a united Opposition”.
Former finance minister P. Chidambaram gave a detailed presentation on how the party could be strengthened with the help of allies in various states. Insiders claim that Mr Chidambaram highlighted that the Congress was strong in 12 states and with the help of its allies it could forge a formidable front for the next general election. Several leaders, including Rajast-han PCC chief Sachin Pilot, AICC’s Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil and Kerala CLP leader Ramesh Chennithala, ins-isted that while the party should forge alliances, it should also ensure that it was at the centre of these alliances and that it sho-uld “emerge as the single largest party”. Senior Congress leader Ambika Soni said: “Naturally, he (Rahul) is the leader of the main national (Opposition) party and we would want our leader to be the face of the Opposition alliance.”
Mr Gandhi launched a scathing attack on the BJP, saying that party “attacks institutions, dalits, tribals, backwards, adivasis, minorities and the poor”. He urged all Congressmen to “rise and fight for India’s oppressed”. Saying that the CWC had accommodated different perspectives and given space to the weakest voices of India, Mr Gandhi said the collective challenge was now to shape the current CWC to that level. “The CWC evolved during the freedom struggle. It is a forum where India expressed, debated, contested and consented ideas to take the nation from colonial rule to freedom,” he said. Mr Gandhi also said that while the BJP was doing the politics of the past, the Congress does the politics of the future.
Looking to expand the party’s voter base, Mr Gandhi urged all Congressman to reach out to new voters and spread the Congress’ ideology. Mr Gandhi said: “The expansion of our party voter base is one of our biggest tasks. In each constituency, we have to find people who have not voted for us and develop a strategy to reach out to them and win back their trust.”
Also, in a bid to check the motormouths in the party, the Congress president issued a stern warning and said that speaking out of turn and embarrassing the party would not be tolerated. He said: “I am fighting bigger fights. Everyone has the right to speak in a party forum but if a party leader gives a wrong statement and weakens this fight, I will not hesitate to take action.” Several leaders also raised the EVMs’ issue, and said a resolution was passed in the AICC plenary that there should be a shift towards paper ballots.
The CWC also discussed issues like unemployment, the agrarian crisis, the economic situation, internal security, women’s safety and special status for Andhra Pradesh. The meeting was held in the Parliament House Annexe in New Delhi. As it was an extended CWC, a total of 239 members attended the meeting.