Even as the Congress acknowledges that it's numbers will shrink substantially in the 2014 general election, it has not yet entirely given up on the idea of being in power. This, despite the fact that party vice president Rahul Gandhi, has said that the Congress will not support "any front" at the Centre.
Showing a shift in strategy, a senior Congress leader told dna on Wednesday that party the has not yet lost hope, even as he conceded that the BJP will emerge as the single largest party. But the Congress, he said, will use every means to prevent Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi from coming to power.
"In the interest of the nation and to prevent irresponsible elements from coming to power, we will not shirk our responsibility," the leader said, implying that the party was look at cobbling up alliances in a post-poll scenario. Qualifying Rahul Gandhi's statement that they would not support any third front, the leader said the party would not support any front from outside, and expect to participate in the government.
"Earlier experiments of a larger party supporting the government form the outside, such as the BJP's support to VP Singh, Congress' support to Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujarat, have resulted in unstable governments," the leader said. "It was therefore, imperative for partners to participate in the government as per their strength in Lok Sabha. Call it an extended UPA-III, but we are sure, it wouldn't be any third or fourth front."
The party's assessment is that the BJP will get 170 to 180 seats, and with its NDA partners, it will get 210 to 215. The Congress and its allies' numbers, he said, would add up to between 120 to 130. The Congress will make an attempt at government formation depending on the numbers and attitude of the regional parties in the post-poll scenario, but the Congress will not lead it, he said.
The leader was sure that Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party (SP), Mamata Bannerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the YSR Congress of Andhra Pradesh will not team up with the BJP due to various reasons, and will instead be comfortable to remain the Congress. But the Congress is worried about the behaviour of J. Jayalalithaa's AIADMK and Mayawati's Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), who may inch towards the NDA.
Earlier, Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel was quoted as saying that the Congress could consider extending support to a Third Front government to stop Modi, but Patel promptly issued a denial.
He later said the results will surprise many, and that the Congress will lead the next government. Even Salman Khurshid has not ruled out the possibility of a Third Front, but party leaders are cautious now.
There is no denying that the top leadership in the Congress remains divided on this question. While the dominant view advocates any option to block a Modi-led government, some senior leaders strongly feel that the party should sit in the Opposition and concentrate on rebuilding the organisation. They argue that the 2014 election will throw up a fractured mandate and there is no point getting involved in a rag-a-tag arrangement that may unravel within months. The party leadership understands that its tally could come down drastically, so there is little logic in drawing up a post-poll strategy. But the new view is that if the Congress is in a position to stop Modi, then it should exercise that option.