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HindustanTimes Sat,25 Oct 2014

Rahul Gandhi tells party he’d rather sit out and rebuild organisation than support Third Front

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 02, 2014
First Published: 00:53 IST(2/5/2014) | Last Updated: 11:19 IST(2/5/2014)

With opinion polls predicting a Congress drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections, senior party functionaries, including a minister, say Rahul Gandhi would prefer to sit in the opposition and rebuild the organisation rather than stitch up a government with the help of multiple parties.

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“Such a formation has not been successful in the past. An element of instability always remains,” one functionary told HT on condition of anonymity.

Several Congress leaders, including external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, have in the recent past suggested the party is open to extending its support to a ‘Third Front’ or ‘Federal Front’ government. But the party sources said these statements have “displeased” the leadership. Khurshid had later retracted his statement.

Read: Khurshid says Cong may back Third Front for govt

According to another Congress functionary, Rahul has made it abundantly clear during interactions with office-bearers that he would go for “structural changes” in the organisation after the polls. “His priority remains rebuilding the organisation, especially in states where the Congress has lost its support base to regional forces. We expect a complete overhaul of the party after the elections,” the source said.

The “structural changes” could translate into the Congress vice-president handing over key organizational assignments to a new team comprising young leaders, the sources said.

With just two phases of polling left before the vote count on May 16, party strategists have also reportedly started exploring various post-poll options. “It all depends on the numbers we get,” said one leader.

There are different views within the party on how many seats it would get. One section believes this election to be a “tough” one and fears the Congress may not go into triple digits. Another is more optimistic, pegging the number of seats the party would win at 140 — still way below its tally of 206 seats in the 2009 elections.

On record, however, party leaders have maintained that there will be a Congress-led UPA-3 government while ruling out any support to the Third Front — a non-UPA, non-NDA alliance of regional parties that include the Left parties, Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal-United.

Read: Mulayam moves out of UP in quest to become kingmaker

“The Congress expects to get a full majority. The question of supporting any front does not arise,” party spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, party general secretary Digvijaya Singh and Union minister Jairam Ramesh also insisted the next government would have the Congress at its core. “We are confident of getting absolute majority with our allies. Why should we support a Third Front when we are getting our majority?” Patel asked. “The final decision will be taken by the Congress president in consultation with the Congress Working Committee. But I am sure the situation (supporting a Third Front government) will not arise.”

A section in the media had earlier quoted him as saying “no sacrifice is big enough so far as secularism is concerned. Congress can consider all options necessary to deny power to communal forces”.

Read: Third Front prospects dim after six phases of polling


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