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Rahul steps up preparations for ’19 polls
By Resmi Sivaram September 05, 2018
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NEW DELHI: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has moved to entrust selection of party candidates to the grassroot level, sources close to him say.

He has also asked party affiliates and departments to help evolve a “winnable strategy” for the Lok Sabha elections.

“As heads of the frontal organisations, departments and cells, you have been active in taking the message of the Congress president to the grassroots and your suggestions and feedback is necessary so as to plan the election strategy,” Congress general secretary in-charge of organisation and training Ashok Gehlot says in a recent letter to heads of the party’s wings.

Gehlot, a former Rajasthan chief minister, is a current trusted aide of the party chief.

The Congress has stepped up its poll preparations in recent weeks with Rahul announcing three election-related panels such as core group, manifesto and publicity committees. Panels on co-ordination, campaign and alliances are expected to be announced soon.

Breaking from Congress tradition of handpicked candidates, Rahul Gandhi has asked the screening committees to short-list candidates in poll-bound states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to finalise the choice after obtaining independent intelligence from the constituencies directly.

This is a more democratic approach, Congress sources claimed.Till now, the screening committees interacted with the state units and then recommended a panel of candidates to a central election committee.

It is understood that Congress units in the three states have taken views of booth-level, block and district committees.

An opinion survey released on Tuesday said 48 per cent of those surveyed still preferred Narendra Modi to lead India while Rahul Gandhi was a distant 11.2.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday asserted that Rahul will be the next prime minister.

“The way things are looking in the country right now, he (Rahul Gandhi) will hopefully be the Prime Minister after 2019 elections,” Singh said.

He also said that the Congress is completely united and is firmly behind him all through the way.

Opposition parties led by Congress are putting in all efforts to stitch an alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While Congress has been saying that it would strive to ensure that Rahul Gandhi becomes prime minister, other parties seem to have a reluctance endorsing him. NCP chief Sharad Pawar had recently said that any anti-BJP party with maximum seats can stake claim for the post of prime minister. However, he also said that the aim of the alliance should be to vote out the BJP.

Recently, Congress general secretary in-charge for Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge had also made a pitch for Rahul to be the next PM.

“I am the general secretary of my party. We are trying to ensure our party gets maximum seats and Rahul ji becomes the prime minister...we want our party to come back to power and our leader becomes the PM,” Kharge said.

Meanwhile, in a separate development reiterating the party’s demand for a JPC probe into the Rafale jet deal, Congress General Secretary Gaurav Gogoi on Tuesday dubbed the Modi government at the Centre “pro-rich and anti-poor.”

“Rafale deal is a copy book case of compromising of national interest, causing loss to the exchequer and promoting crony capitalism at the cost of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited,” he told journalists here. The deal compromises our defence needs and has been finalised following the personal intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to benefit a private company, he claimed.

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