With an eye on the 2019 general elections, the first meeting of the recently-constituted Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Sunday mandated party president Rahul Gandhi to form broad-based alliances with like-minded parties, but not at the cost of risking its own political dominance.
Gandhi chaired the meeting of the CWC, the highest decision-making body of the party, for the first time since he took over as party president seven months ago.
The meeting at the Parliament House Annexe lasted nearly five hours, with over 35 Congress members speaking on a host of issues, including alliances, challenges on ground, strengthening booth level committees and issues that need to be highlighted in the run-up to the general elections.
“Expansion of our party vote base is one of our biggest tasks. In each constituency, we have to find people who have not voted for us and develop a strategy to reach out to them and win back their trust," said Gandhi, adding that the CWC was constituted to strike the right balance between youth and experience.
Ashok Gehlot, general secretary in-charge of organization, told reporters that the CWC has authorized Gandhi to form an election campaign committee, which will take decisions on pre- and post-poll alliances. The move gains significance given that ever since its rout in the 2014 general elections, many alliance partners quit the party.
According to leaders who attended the meeting, several concerns were flagged over alliances. “Broadly, two things were agreed upon. One, that we have to go ahead with forming alliances in several states to sharpen our 2019 strategy. Two, many leaders pointed out that alliances cannot happen at our cost, and at the risk of diluting our political dominance. It is not about seat-sharing, it is about the importance you get as a party in an alliance," a senior leader said, requesting anonymity.
“Rahul Gandhi is the face of our party and we will go to the people under his leadership. We are hopeful that we have the public’s blessings. When we are the biggest party, then naturally he will be our face. There is no doubt about it," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters after the meet.
Concerns were also raised about the delay in announcing the list of candidates and the party manifesto, which left the candidates with little time to campaign. Some even suggested that both should be released 100 days before the polling date. A number of leaders also spoke about booth level committees and how the party should be more aggressive in strengthening them.