The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia sankalp: Win or no, BJP must go

Shimla, July 9: If the Congress cannot win, the BJP must lose.

This is the slogan that is coming out of Sonia Gandhi’s Shimla Sankalp, the unstated resolve the party made at the end of three days of brainstorming.

The document adopted by over 270 leaders does not spell it out in so many words — nor did Sonia elaborate on it in her closing remarks — but under the sobering influence of a realistic assessment that the next elections may not give it a majority, the Congress emphasised that its principal objective is to ensure “the defeat of the BJP and its allies”.

Given this goal, the strategy follows. The leadership has opened itself to the idea of poll understanding with other parties which, too, are committed to defeating the BJP and its allies.

Again, the sankalp document does not mention this. But what it does tell party supporters is to be prepared to surrender seats to poll partners. “No sacrifice should be too great for each and every Congressman and woman to ensure defeat of the BJP and its allies in the forthcoming elections.”

In the closing address, Sonia recalled the Panchmarhi formulation of 1998, its elaboration at the AICC Bangalore plenary two years’ ago and her own remarks last month at Srinagar to emphasise that the Congress is willing to enter into electoral understandings with any party committed to defeating the BJP.

She said a joint campaign to beat the BJP is as much a responsibility of other secular parties as that of the Congress.

“The prevailing situation in the country makes it incumbent on all secular forces to intensify their efforts to evolve a strategy for combating communalism and religious fundamentalism and for ensuring the defeat of the BJP and its allies.”

The political approach paper prepared by the leadership for the Shimla session specifically talks about the party’s readiness to enter into pre- and post-poll alliances with the single objective of overthrowing the BJP in Delhi.

Unlike the Panchmarhi approach papers, the Shimla document has been adopted and constitutes the party’s official line.

If the subject of alliances does not find place in the document, it is because the leadership has chosen not to mix the enunciation of the party’s policy and programmes with poll strategy, sources said.

Nevertheless, it concludes with an appeal to all “progressive-thinking men and women, institutions, political movements” to join the Congress in meeting the challenge of defeating the BJP and the communal designs of that party and its Sangh parivar associates like the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal.

Sources said Sonia’s emphasis on other secular parties sharing the responsibility of defeating the BJP was meant to convey to potential pre-poll allies in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, where the Congress is weak, that they should be reasonable in their claims to seats.

The leadership is also telling these possible allies that if they are serious about putting up a challenge to the BJP, the spearhead of the battle has to be the Congress at the national level.

Asserting this leadership role under Sonia, the party announced the launch of its national election campaign — Jan Jagran Abhiyan.

The campaign will be built on what the Congress considers the BJP-led government’s all-round failures, be it on security, defence, communal harmony, economic growth, social welfare, governance, foreign policy or probity and transparency in public life.

The sankalp document also outlines some policy thrusts of the party, such as its commitment to rural development and transformation and special empowerment packages for Dalits, adivasis, other backward classes and minorities.

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