A week before the Lok Sabha elections start, Congress strategist Jairam Ramesh has conceded it will be a "tough fight" although he is optimistic that his party will win again.
Ramesh said his party would contest around 440 seats out of 543 seats as against 417 in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. It won 145 seats the last time, while the party expects to better its performance this time.
"It is a tough fight and no political party can predict the outcome. But we sure have an edge," Ramesh, who resigned as a central minister to take charge of the party's election war room, said in an interview.
He said there was "cautious optimism" in the Congress, which is trying to again emerge as a single largest party in the 545-seat Lok Sabha.
Ramesh admitted that the exit of the PMK from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was a serious setback.
"We are seeking a mandate on the performance of our government, which implemented 85 percent of its promises in the previous manifesto," he said. But "Indian elections are not fought on achievements alone", he quickly added.
"There is a caste arithmetic that also has to be factored in."
Asked how he would compare the previous Lok Sabha elections with the one set to start, Ramesh answered: "Security is an important issue now.
"Then you don't have (former prime minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee, who was like an umbrella figure (for the National Democratic Alliance allies), which (L K) Advani is not," he added.