Anxious to brush aside the perception that the Congress had given up hope of forming the next government, senior party leaders on Tuesday ruled out supporting a non-NDA alternative.
Instead, the Congress president’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, general secretary Digvijaya Singh and election coordinator Jairam Ramesh insisted that the next government would have the Congress at its core.
A day after he was quoted saying that the party can consider “all options” to keep the BJP out of power, Patel said that the question of supporting a Third Front “does not arise”. “We are confident of getting an absolute majority with our allies. Why should we support a Third Front when we are getting a majority?” he said on Tuesday.
Ramesh emphasised that the Congress must have a “pivotal role” in the next government: “We want a stable, secular and cohesive government. To ensure these requirements are met, all parties must share responsibilities of the government from inside. We must be the driving force of any non-NDA government.”
On Tuesday morning, Patel was quoted in a section of the media as saying that “no sacrifice is big enough so far as secularism is concerned” and that “the party can consider all options necessary to deny power to communal forces.” Many interpreted his statements as an indication that the Congress is willing to support a non-NDA alternative from outside.
But hours later, Patel said, “The final decision will be taken by the Congress president in consultation with the Congress Working Committee. But I am sure that the situation (supporting a Third Front government) will not arise.”
While insisting that questions on possible support to a Third Front government at this stage were “silly”, Ramesh ruled out offering outside support to any alternative, saying such experiments had “failed” in the past.
Singh echoed Ramesh when he said that the idea of a party with 25 or 30 seats leading a coalition government with a bigger partner supporting it from outside had failed previously.
Ramesh said Sonia Gandhi would remain Congress president after the elections but added, “I can also predict Rahul Gandhi assuming larger responsibilities because during the last one year, many responsibilities have been devolved to him.”