After rout in Hindi heartland, Congress reviews readiness of State units for Lok Sabha poll

Updated - December 28, 2023 07:22 am IST

Published - December 28, 2023 01:41 am IST - New Delhi

Congress leaders during a meeting at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Congress leaders during a meeting at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The Congress leadership on Wednesday held a meeting with leaders of the party’s Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh units to discuss its strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

Party president Mallikarjun Kharge, former chief Rahul Gandhi, and general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal are among the top leaders from the Congress who have been reviewing the election preparedness of various States.

On Tuesday, the party high command had reviewed electoral strategies with the units of Bihar, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Sukvinder Singh Sukhu, his deputy Mukesh Agnihotri, senior leader Pratibha Singh and AICC in-charge Rajeev Shukla were part of Wednesday’s meetings.

“We feel the Congress will win all four Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh,” Mr. Sukhu told presspersons after the meeting.

Asked about the issues that the party is going to focus on, Mr. Sukhu said the Agniveer recruitment scheme for defence personnel, the “indifference” of the Union government towards the State that suffered ₹12,000 crore losses because of floods and heavy rains, and inflation would be among the main issues.

Mr. Agnihotri added that the BJP’s top leadership didn’t even visit the State after the natural calamity.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Mr. Kharge said despite several requests to declare the heavy rains and landslides in Himachal Pradesh a national disaster and provide appropriate funds, the Central government didn’t do so. “The Congress Party has mobilised all resources to help the people and will continue to do so,” Mr. Kharge said.

‘Rebuilding Andhra’

After the meeting with the Andhra Pradesh unit, the party’s State in-charge Manickam Tagore said senior leaders discussed the party’s plans for the upcoming Lok Sabha election as well as the Assembly poll in the State.

“We invite all voices who believe in the Congress’s ideology to join the party to rebuild Andhra Pradesh, a dream which got lost because of the Narendra Modi government’s discriminatory policies. Unkept promises of the Centre in the last 10 years have derailed Andhra Pradesh’s development. The Congress is ready to fight the battle of 2024,” Mr. Tagore said.

Mr. Kharge, in another post on X, said, “Everyone believes that the ground situation has drastically changed after government formation in Karnataka and Telangana. Every leader and worker is going to work hard and re-establish the bond which the people of Andhra Pradesh once shared with the Congress party.”

‘Have to be flexible’

Following the senior leaders meeting with the party’s Bihar unit on Tuesday, State Congress chief Akhilesh Prasad Singh had told The Hindu that the party will be “flexible” with their demand for seats as part of the grand alliance with Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal in the State.

“In the last Lok Sabha poll, we had contested on nine seats. This time parties have to be flexible. However, the final decision would be taken by the National Alliance Committee (NAC),” he said.

Members of the NAC included two former Chief Ministers – Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel — former Union Minister Salman Khurshid and veteran party leader Mohan Prakash. “Rahulji said, like the BJP, the Congress should make the preparation based on the party, and not on the candidate. Party should be given the top priority rather than the candidate,” Mr. Singh added.

During the Bihar meeting, Mr. Kharge also clarified that he was not in any prime ministerial race and it was more important to defeat the BJP in 2024 elections.

As far as the buzz over alliance in States with other INDIA constituents is concerned, the picture still looks hazy as majority opinion within the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the party in Punjab didn’t favour an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). “There has been a lot of talk in the media about the alliance and seat-sharing with AAP. So far, the party leadership has not held any discussion on this issue [seat-sharing], not even in today’s meeting,” Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said after Tuesday’s meeting.

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