Congress president Rahul Gandhi (PTI file)
Congress president Rahul Gandhi (PTI file)

Opinion | Softer stance

Senior Congressman Ghulam Nabi Azad has said the party’s priority is to defeat the NDA and that it’s “not going to make it an issue” if the position isn’t offered to it

The Congress appears to have softened its stance on accepting a leader from any other opposition party as Prime Minister were the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to be voted out of power. Senior Congressman Ghulam Nabi Azad has said the party’s priority is to defeat the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and that it’s “not going to make it an issue" if the position isn’t offered to it. That sounds like a climbdown for the Congress, perhaps prompted by criticism from friendly parties for letting its alleged arrogance get in the way of opposition unity.

But it isn’t as if the Congress has given up on Rahul Gandhi as its candidate. Azad also said a consensus in favour of a Congress leader would be good. Clearly, the grand old party sees itself as the first claimant to the position, especially if it wins the most seats among anti-BJP parties. It also seems aware that these parties aren’t likely to agree on a non-Congress leader of a coalition to replace the NDA. Many of them share a history of mutual rivalry and bitterness.

The communists, whose 34-year rule in West Bengal was uprooted by the Trinamool Congress, may not chuffed if Mamata Banerjee stakes a claim to the top post. In Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party may stop each other from ascending the top post. Elsewhere, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has his own ambitions; which camp he’s in remains unclear. Likewise, Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. All in all, the Congress’s softer stand is welcome for the sake of a stronger opposition, but the choice of PM, if the BJP somehow loses, will probably be fraught with tension.

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