Congress for ‘pragmatic approach’ on alliances, says elections must go back to the ballot
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Congress for ‘pragmatic approach’ on alliances, says elections must go back to the ballot

In a political resolution adopted on the opening day of its plenary session, the Congress also said PM Modi’s pitch for simultaneous polls was “misplaced, impractical and incompatible” with the Constitution.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2018 07:29 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Congress,Congress plenary session,Modi govt
A Congress worker waves a flag during the 84th Plenary Session of The Indian National Congress (INC) at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

Setting the tone for the next Lok Sabha elections a year before they are due, the Congress on Saturday said it will adopt a “pragmatic approach” on alliances with compatible parties to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and demanded the reintroduction of ballot papers to check what it called the manipulation of poll outcomes through misuse of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

On the opening day of the party’s 84th plenary session, Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of “dividing” the country by spreading hatred and anger. His mother and predecessor Sonia Gandhi termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-poll promises “dramebazi ,” or theatrics.

The BJP dismissed the remarks as “mere political rhetoric” that the people of the country have rejected repeatedly. “Both mother and son have been making same baseless allegations since 2014. People of India have rejected them and brought BJP to power in state after state, while the Congress has become politically extinct,” the ruling party’s spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said.

In a political resolution adopted on the opening day of the plenary session, the main opposition party said Modi’s pitch for simultaneous polls was “misplaced, impractical and incompatible” with the Constitution. “There are apprehensions among the political parties and the people over the misuse of EVMs to manipulate the outcome contrary to the popular verdict,” it said.

The resolution on agriculture and employment talked about imposing a 5% cess on the incomes of the top 1% richest Indians to create a national poverty alleviation fund.

The key takeaway from day one was the Congress party’s resolve to evolve a common workable programme with like-minded parties to defeat the BJP in the 2019 elections. While the party has decided to continue with the alliance strategy adopted at its Shimla conclave in 2003, a year before it led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to power, it did not insist on leading a coalition this time.

The Shimla declaration had rejected the 1998 Pachmarhi resolution that laid special emphasis on following the ‘ekala chalo (go it alone)’ line.

The stage for a broader understanding against the BJP has already been set with Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the UPA that lost power in 2014, hosting a dinner for leaders of 20 parties at her residence on March 13. This was followed by a series of meetings between Rahul Gandhi and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.

The recent by-poll outcome in Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh, both of which were wrested from the BJP by the Samajwadi Party (SP), has also sent a clear message to the opposition parties that the BJP juggernaut could be stopped only if they come together. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supported SP candidates in the seats vacated by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya.

Political experts said the Congress should become a rallying force for all other political parties but cautioned that the EVM issue could be tricky and needs to be handled with prudence.

“It is the best way forward. The Congress needs to bring together all those parties that are opposed to majoritarianism and authoritarianism and evolve a common minimum programme,” Delhi-based political analyst Balveer Arora said.

The Congress party’s demand for reverting to the old practice of paper ballots comes in the wake of a controversy over alleged EVM tampering. The Congress and other opposition parties have in the past repeatedly urged the Election Commission to replace the EVMs with ballot papers in all future elections.

“The demand for discarding EVMs is a tricky one. How do you explain the results in Gorakhpur and Phulpur? They need to fight for more stringent and transparent use of EVMs and paper trail verification,” Arora said.

The session will conclude with the adoption of resolutions on foreign policy and the economy, followed by Rahul Gandhi’s closing remarks to delegates.

First Published: Mar 17, 2018 22:07 IST