Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to form a broad coalition against the BJP has got support from the National Conference. The former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said the Congress has to be the “backbone” of the opposition unity with its chief Rahul Gandhi at the forefront of the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power at the Centre.
This, however, does not minimise the responsibility of regional leaders who are strong in their own states, Abdullah told PTI in Kolkata in an interview.
“The Congress has to be the backbone as the lion’s share of seats of the opposition in one particular party will have to be from it as there are a number of states where there will be direct contest between the Congress and the BJP,” he said.
“At the end of the day to form a government at the Centre you need 272 seats, which the regional outfits are not going to get. You will be looking towards the Congress to come close to the 100-seat mark, if not cross it to form a non-BJP government,” he said.
Abdullah met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here on Friday and held talks on the probable opposition front.
Efforts to cobble up an opposition front is gaining momentum, but a section of leaders of regional parties are not keen on letting the Congress lead it and are propagating a non-BJP and non-Congress front.
On the issue of Rahul Gandhi being the face of the opposition, Abdullah said he being the president of the single largest opposition party was expected to be at the forefront of the election campaign. “Obviously, one will expect Rahul Gandhi to be at the forefront of leading the election campaign in 2019 but at the same time Sonia Gandhi is the leader of the UPA. Therefore to the best possible extent one will hope Sonia Gandhi will also be part of the campaign,” he said.
Refuting aspersions on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership capabilities, Abdullah cited the example of Congress’ role in forming the government in Karnataka and said he had shown a lot of maturity on how the party was orienting itself. “He is president of the Congress party. If anybody has any doubt about his leadership quality then it has to be from his party. His party has absolutely no problem with him, then why should anybody else have objections?” Abdullah said.
“Rahul Gandhi has shown a lot of maturity on how the Congress is orienting. He is a leader in his own right and he has every right to be there,” the NC leader said. He, however, maintained that the issue of the “face of opposition” is being brought up to divide the opposition unity. “Individual regional parties are strong in their own states.”