It was slated to be an event that would pit Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi. But the hype built around the event faded fast.
Instead, echoing the Shimla Sankalp of 2003, the Congress Thursday decided to call upon “all secular parties” to join hands against “divisive forces”.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting also decided to project party vice-president Rahul Gandhi not as its PM candidate, but only as its chief campaigner for the Lok Sabha elections.
In a resolution to be adopted at Friday’s AICC session, the Congress will appeal to “secular parties” to save the “secular ethos” of the country, according to sources present at the CWC meeting at which the draft resolution was approved.
Then out of power for seven years, the Congress had given up its go-it-alone policy at the Shimla conclave, with Sonia Gandhi asking all secular forces to evolve a strategy to combat communalism and religious fundamentalism. The Shimla resolution invited all “progressive-thinking” institutions and political movements to join hands with the Congress.
The fact that the Congress has decided to give another clarion call to anti-BJP forces to come together betrays the nervousness in the ruling camp at a time when it is left with only three significant partners — the NCP, the RLD and the NC — in the UPA.
That party leaders were largely in favour of formally pitting Rahul against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was evident at the meeting. The first five speakers — Ramesh Chennithala, B K Hari Prasad, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Rajiv Satav and Gurudas Kamat — pitched strongly for Rahul’s projection as candidate for PM. Seeing the prevailing mood, a visibly upset Sonia reportedly intervened, cutting short Kamat’s speech.
“Why are we having this debate?” she is learnt to have asserted. “Why all this hauaa (hype) about PM candidate? It is not our tradition to project a PM candidate. He (Rahul) will lead the campaign.”
Sonia’s intervention put an end to the Rahul-for-PM clamour. Senior party leaders Ambika Soni and Ajit Jogi later suggested that a resolution be passed to the effect that Rahul will lead the election campaign.
Congress sources familiar with Rahul’s own view on the matter said the party vice-president is of the opinion that projecting a PM candidate would “not be of much help”. At the CWC meeting, Rahul said that he was a “dedicated” Congress worker, and appeared to indicate that he would be inclined