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Congress grand plan: Only state level alliances in 2019

New Delhi: Amid speculation over the Congress’ ambition of leading a united Opposition alliance against the BJP in 2019, the party said on Monday that alliances would only be formed on a “state-by-state” basis. In the first official statement from the party on a grand Opposition alliance, Congress chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “Alliances need to be sewed up state to state. There can be no one-size-fits-all alliance.”
On June 18, this newspaper had reported that the Opposition parties, including the Congress, had veered around to Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s “one-on-one” formula in states to take on the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the 2019 general election.
On Monday, Mr Surjewala said: “Every state has regional parties. The Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, for example, have been in alliance in Maharashtra, and talks are currently on to sew together the same alliance, but an NCP-Congress alliance cannot be transposed in Gujarat, Rajasthan or Delhi, for in Gujarat we don’t feel the need for any alliance.”
He went on to add that “while an RJD-Congress-JD(U) alliance was there in Bihar… we have decided that we (RJD and Congress) will fight that election together, but the RJD and the Congress will not fight together in Uttar Pradesh. There will be different partners”.
The Congress spokesman’s comments came in response to an interview by NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, where he said he didn’t see a pre-poll alliance taking shape before the big battle. Mr Pawar said that such an understanding was “not practical” given the regional compulsions of the parties in states, and added that as per his assessment, it would be a statewise position.
Reacting to this, Mr Surjewala said: “Sharad Pawar is 100 per cent right, there is no one formula.”
Sources said the broad contours of the Opposition understanding were arrived at on the sidelines of the swearing-in of the JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka last month, where the “who’s who” of the Opposition leadership had gathered. Sources said the top Opposition leaders, including Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and former Uttar Pradesh CM and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, met and tried to fine-tune this strategy. The leaders also decided to hold at least one big joint Opposition event every month to keep showcasing Opposition unity.
The “one-on-one” formula was first proposed by Ms Banerjee during a high-voltage visit to New Delhi during the second half of the Budget Session earlier this year.