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Amid growing calls for restructuring the Congress after its debacle in UP, senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar today stressed on the need for forging a "grand alliance" as the party "cannot defeat BJP and Modi alone". Aiyar called for forging fresh alliances to take on the BJP and strengthening the party by bringing in young leaders. "It is very clear that Congress cannot alone take on the BJP. It would be foolish to say that today Congress can alone defeat Modi. But one would be sensible to say that after such results we can win and will win in 2019 polls by fighting him unitedly by forging alliances," he said. We have to admit that on the basis of seats, it has been BJP's victory, Aiyar said. "I feel that on the basis of seats, we have suffered a very big loss. But it is not that people have voted for Modi in 2017 or even in 2014, as more than 69 per cent did not vote for Modi in 2014 and around 59 per cent have not voted for him in 2017 in Uttar Pradesh," he said. About Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, he said he faced no challenge from within the party. Admitting that the Congress' space in national politics was shrinking, he said there was a need to bring in fresh young faces, including those from different regions, in leadership role. "Forming alliance to take on Modi is the best way and the most assured way. However, it is not the only way. There will be difficulties on the way. It is not neccessary that every party should be in it. We must approach a mahagathbhandan (grand alliance) to the extent possible," the former Union minister said. The grand alliance could then decide who its leader would be, he said, without clearly mentioning whether Rahul Gandhi should helm it or someone else. Aiyar also wrote a blog wherein he underscored the need for reviving the spirit of 2004 when the UPA I led by Congress, was backed by the Left Front, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party during various phases of its stint in power. "What, therefore, is now required is a restoration of the spirit of 2004.
Inclusive India lost in 2014 because the rainbow alliance of the decade 2004-2014 withered away. What could restore Inclusive India is for the UPA's rainbow alliance to come together again," Aiyar said.
"Also, it is only after this strategic objective is clearly spelt out that tactical issues relating to the composition of the alliance, the sharing of seats, and the nature of the leadership need to be tackled. Sonia Gandhi did it then; Rahul Gandhi needs to do it now," he said.
Aiyar, however, insisted it was even more important for Congress to put its house in order than promoting a composite alliance.
Aiyar said, "Rahul Gandhi has since outlined much the same theme in his statement in Parliament. Let's not waste any time crying over spilt milk." At the AICC briefing, party general secretary C P Joshi said the entire political narrative changed after 2014 elections and posed new challenges to face which the party needed to align with other parties across the country to take on the BJP. He sought to defend Rahul Gandhi against criticism, saying he played a significant role in bringing together various parties in Bihar to BJP. "You have to assess the qualities and leadership of Rahul Gandhi. By the end of 2018 you will see structural changes in the party and some new young faces will come in the party. We assure you that under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi we will face the new narrative and we will deliver 2019. "We will do everything, look at state-specific challenges. We will see to it that we will in 2019 give a formidable challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi," he said. He said Congress will have tie-ups in every state "wherever we can give a challenge to Narendra Modi. We will explore all possibilities".