New Delhi: In the first sign that the Congress could go alone in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday seemed to be flexing his muscles when he cautioned the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party not to “underestimate the Congress”.
The Congress president, bolstered by recent wins in Assembly elections in three critical heartland states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in December without entering into a pre-poll alliance with the SP or BSP, said in an interview to a Dubai-based Gulf News, “We are trying to bring the Opposition together… I’ve heard some statements in the media but we are going to work together and make sure that we defeat Mr Modi. But I just want to say again – to underestimate the Congress in UP is a big mistake.”
His comments are the first indication of the party’s Plan B after the regional players decided to desert it. In 2014 elections, the Congress had won only two out the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP. The Congress president’s statement comes days after the SP and the BSP were seen fashioning an electoral alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Asked whether keeping the Congress out of the alliance in Uttar Pradesh would be an advantage for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he said, “From our past experiences we can say, in cases where the Congress had fielded candidates against the SP-BSP alliance, we did not face any problem in defeating the BJP. Rather, there have been instances where the Congress had not put up its candidate in a seat and the BJP got its vote share.”
He further added, “Our first aim is to defeat (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi. There are states where we are very strong and we are the primary party and are contesting the BJP directly. There are states where there are possible alliances — Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Bihar… where we are working out an alliance formula.” The Congress president also said he was confident of stitching together alliances in several states....