Confusion is rampant within the Congress on what would be its role post May 16 when the results of the General Elections are announced, and whether or not the Congress should support any non-National Democratic Alliance or Third Front formation or even be a part of such an exercise. Renu Mittal reports
While there is near unanimity both within and inside the Congress that the party would not get the numbers needed to form a government at the Centre after May 16, a number of senior leaders have been privately making the point that the leadership should not shy away from supporting a Third Front government in an attempt to keep the BJP out of power.
The latest assessment within a section of the party is that the Congress can win around 120 seats and the BJP would not cross 180. In that event, say leaders, the Congress should support a Third Front government of regional leaders.
A Union minister said “We will find another (former prime minister and Janata Da-United president Deve Gowda or another (former prime minister Inder Kumar)Gujral. In case if the Aam Aadmi Party heads the government, they should be acceptable all around.”
But within this there are voices of caution.
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A senior All India Congress Committee functionary said that if the Congress gets the numbers to lead a government and form UPA-III, then only they should form the government otherwise they should sit in the opposition with dignity and work to rebuild the party. He said that the Congress should stay far away from undertaking any Third Front experiment which means giving outside support, and that would not help the party in the long run.
It is expected that the tug-of-war within the party would increase over in the days ahead. Unless the BJP-led NDA gets a majority on its own, the differences within the Congress over the formation of the next government are bound to get sharper.
While there are differing voices within the party over the issue, there is also an attempt to create further confusion by sections of party leaders and the media, in a bid to sabotage the party in the midst of an election.
A story published in a leading English daily has alleged that the Congress has released a sub-manifesto giving 4 per cent quota to minorities belonging to the backward sections. The story has led to a great deal of criticism from opposition parties and is meant to increase the anger against the Congress within the majority Hindu communities as well as the backward classes which see this move as eating into a part of their quota.
Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal has officially denied the existence of any such sub-manifesto. He said various suggestions were given by people whom party vice-president Rahul Gandhi had interacted with during the creation of the manifesto, some of which are in the public domain.
But the issue of reservation for the minorities which has been implemented in some states is under the purview of the Supreme Court, and until that is settled, there can be no movement on that front. He said that the party will visit that issue when it forms the government after the elections.
A senior Congress leader said that the minorities would in any case vote for the party wherever they feel the party is in a winning position and where they need to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“That is why this attempt is made by publishing such articles to damage the Congress image among the majority community,” he said.
“There is speculation within the Congress that certain sections within the party which are trying to undermine Rahul’s leadership may be the inspiration behind such articles,” he added.