Congress retracts, signals Rahul Gandhi may be game for PM’s post

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Published: May 17, 2019 4:25:35 PM

The Congress has retracted its earlier statement that the party will not insist on getting the top post in case of a hung Parliament.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

Lok Sabha Election 2019: Contrary to the earlier signals emanating from his party, Congress President Rahul Gandhi may not let go of an opportunity to become the prime minister if the NDA falls short of the majority mark of 272 seats. Gandhi family scion, who ran a spirited campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the alleged irregularities in Rafale fighter jet deal, still appears to be hopeful of a shot at the top post.

Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad retracted from his Thursday’s statement that the Congress will not insist on the coveted post in case of a hung parliament.

“If we have to run the government for five years, the biggest political party should be given a chance,” Azad was quoted as saying by a news agency. He said that it was not true that the Congress will not claim the PM’s post or was not interested in it.

In fact, Ghulam Nabi Azad’s latest statement is in sync with Rahul Gandhi’s strategy of fighting Lok Sabha election from two places. Wayanad in Kerala in addition to Amethi in Uttar Pradesh to ensure his seat in Lok Sabha as he faced a tough challenge from union minister Smriti Irani in his family bastion. Rahul Gandhi is well aware that if fails to enter into Lok Sabha then it will erode his moral authority to stake claim to lead a coalition government at the centre if BJP fails to win majority.

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Perhaps, Azad’s earlier statement was aimed at reassuring those potential partners like SP-BSP in Uttar Pradesh and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal who have not endorsed Rahul for the top job but their support will be crucial in formation of the next government at the centre.

Ghulam Nabi Azad had said on Thursday that his party will not make it an issue if it was not offered the Prime Minister’s post. However, veteran Congress leader and the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha had to change his stance the next day.

The Congress’ stand is contrary to the position taken by the party in Karnataka where it persuaded Siddaramaia to give up the chief minister’s post to forge an alliance against the BJP by offering the top post in the state to junior partner – Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy,

While Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, DMK leader MK Stalin and RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha have publicly backed Rahul Gandhi for PM’s post, two powerful regional parties SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee have not endorsed Rahul Gandhi for Prime Minister’s position.

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Mayawati is said to be nursing the ambitions to become Prime Minister herself and by attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi she has tried to prove that she can take on the Prime Minister. Mayawati’s bid is also backed by Akhilesh Yadav. Their alliance in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh has been seen as the biggest hurdle in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid for a second term. It will be difficult for any coalition to form the next government at the centre without their support if the NDA fails to win a clear majority.

It’s in the political interest of Akhilesh and Mayawati to keep both the Congress and BJP under check. These two arch rivals were forced to come together to preserve their support base in UP, that was under an increasing attack from an aggressive BJP that cornered 71 of 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and more than three-fourth Vidhan Sabha seats in 2017.

And it is this alliance that will turn out to be the biggest stumbling block for Rahul Gandhi’s bid for the top post if Prime Minister Modi fails to secure a second term for himself.

READ ALSO: Pie in the sky? Rahul Gandhi will need Rs 17-18 lakh crore to implement Congress manifesto

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