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Rahul rules out support to any front

New Delhi, May 3: Rahul Gandhi today said the Congress would not support any front, but the unambiguous assertion is being seen as a tactical move to confront the impression that the party is already out of the race.

“We will not support any front,” Rahul said in Amethi when asked if the party would back a third front government. “We will get the required number,” he added.

Over the past few days there have been hints from some senior leaders that the Congress could consider supporting a third front government. Such talk has enraged the top leadership, prompting Rahul to step in to quell the premature speculation that could further damage the party’s prospects.

Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel was quoted as saying the Congress could consider extending support to a third front government as stopping Narendra Modi was the overriding objective, but he had promptly issued a denial. Patel later said the results would be surprising and the Congress would lead the next government.

Even Salman Khurshid had not ruled out the third front possibility, but party leaders are cautious now.

There is, however, no denying that the top leadership is divided on this question: while the dominant view indeed 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 would throw up a fractured mandate and there is no point getting involved with a rag-tag arrangement that could unravel within months.

But key strategists insist that pre-poll dogmas barely guide post-poll decisions and, hence, statements made during the campaign should be taken as strategic positioning, not a commitment. The party leadership understands that the tally could come down drastically and there is little logic in drawing up a strategy at this juncture without any inkling of the possible permutations and combinations. If the Congress is in a position to stop Modi, it is most likely to exercise that option, be it a third or a fourth front.

“We are confident so far that the results would be drastically different from the opinion poll projections,” a senior leader told The Telegraph today. “We dismiss talk of the Congress slipping below hundred as canard as even the most conservative estimate suggests there would hardly be a difference of 30-40 seats between us and the BJP. If the numbers add up and a non-BJP coalition is possible, we would most likely go for it. But why talk about it now as it would bolster the perception that we are losing.”

The essence of most conversations in Congress circles is: “We will stop him.”

The leaders insist that the post-poll positioning of parties like the Trinamul Congress, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party would guide the future course. If these players avoid joining hands with the BJP, it won’t be able to reach the magic figure even if it touches the 200-mark.