The Congress will build a strategic coalition of opposition parties in a bid to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but will leave it to the poll outcome to help build a consensus on the prime ministerial candidate, top party sources said on Friday.
The sources further said a broad consensus has been reached among various opposition parties to unitedly take on the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
They, however, made it clear the leadership issue will be decided only on the basis of the poll results.
The Congress is of the view that firming up of proper opposition alliances in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra is crucial, as the BJP may lose a major chunk of its seats in these states which, the party feels, would pave the way for the defeat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A 'broad strategic understanding' between the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress in politically important Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, has been struck and details of seat-sharing are being worked out, the sources also said.
The party believes it is likely to reap big 'significant gains' in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab and Haryana, and some others in the next Lok Sabha polls, that will help catapult it to the centre-stage of an opposition alliance.
The sources said that for Modi to become prime minister, the BJP would need at least 230 Lok Sabha seats as some National Democratic Alliance partners can choose a different face, if given a choice.
The Congress will 'not ignore' the views of state units before forging tie-ups with Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi and Punjab, but will not ally with parties like Shiv Sena whose ideology is not in consonance with that of the party, they said.
The Congress believes that the 2019 polls will be a fight between ideologies.
With Congress authorising party chief Rahul Gandhi to forge alliances with like-minded parties on state-to-state basis, party insiders say views of state units will be taken into consideration before finalising such tie-ups.
The interests of the Pradesh Congress Committees will be protected before forging any state-level or national tie-ups, the sources said.
The Congress also exuded confidence that it will win the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assembly elections later this year, where it is unlikely to project a chief ministerial candidate.
The party will focus on selection of right candidates for these elections and run a proper campaign, the sources said.
The sources said the Congress was looking at a two-stage action plan for the 2019 general elections, under which it will first bring on board all opposition parties to defeat Modi and the BJP/RSS and then decide on the leadership issue on the basis of election results.
The Congress feels that discussing a post-poll scenario like the leadership issue could prove counter-productive and "divisive" for the opposition alliance, they pointed out, adding it would be acrimonious for the opposition unity and would unwarrantedly serve the BJP agenda.
The Congress has to forge alliances for short-term goals in various states, but an opportunity was emerging for the party to strengthen its base in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the sources said.
The Congress will set the narrative in the run-up to 2019 polls with issues like the alleged 'failure' of the Modi government on various fronts including jobs creation, corruption and plight of farmers. The party will work on giving a vision statement in the next few months.
The party is also of the view that there is lack of trust for EVMs and would consult all opposition parties to decide on how to move forward on the issue and take it up at which level.