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Give and take main challenge to sewing 2019 coalitions: PC 

New Delhi:  After the BSP and the SP quit alliance talks with the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said the “ability of political parties to give and take will be the principal challenge to the formation of state-level anti-BJP alliances for the 2019 General Election.”

In an exclusive interview to The Tribune, Chidambaram said “there must be willingness to give up seats where a party is likely to lose in favour of the party which is likely to win because while numbers are important, winnability is equally important.”

Member, Congress’ core and alliance panels for 2019 LS poll and chairman, party’s manifesto committee, Chidambaram didn’t see the breakdown of talks with BSP in MP and Chhattisgarh as a setback but admitted “it wasn’t the result the Congress would have liked”. 

He was confident the BSP would “reconsider” its position and said, “Positions taken by political parties are not immutable. It’s possible the BSP will realise it will gain more in a coalition rather than fighting it alone.”

On whether the Congress was being idealistic in hoping for give and take, Chidambaram said politics was the art of the possible and “instead of staring at a wall, one must find ways to either scale the wall or get around the wall.”

He reiterated that the question of coalition leadership would be decided after the 2019 elections and didn’t see the upcoming LS polls as a personality battle between PM Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. “It is a battle between our idea of India and the BJP’s monolithic, homogenous idea of India.”

Asked about the Congress’ challenges for 2019, Chidambaram listed three: “The party organisation must be strong, the narrative communicated to the people must be clear and the communication must be effective.”

To whether Rafale was the Congress’ main poll plank, he said Rafale was an “example of what went wrong” under the BJP government but there was more to the government’s “omissions and commissions” than Rafale. “Wait for our manifesto,” he added.

On why opposition parties were not backing the Rafale issue visibly, the ex-minister said they were raising the issue in the language of their states and they needn’t accompany Congress leaders to CAG and CVC because the Congress was “leading the fight”.

The veteran leader dismissed Mayawati’s recent remarks that the Congress was arrogant saying, “In politics, you must learn that hard words break no bones.”

Refusing to predict MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh poll results, Chidambaram said this much: “The Congress is on the ascendant in these states” and reminded the Election Commission that all political parties minus the BJP want to return to ballot papers and alternatively want EVM and VVPAT tally ideally matched in all booths. 

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