The Congress party's highest decision-making body -- the Working Committee - on Sunday authorized party chief Rahul Gandhi to forge alliances ahead of next year's general elections. "The process has already started and a committee has been formed for this," Mr Gandhi told NDTV. He refused to share details about the committee but said talks are going on with various like-minded political parties.
The strategy session was held in the afterglow of Rahul Gandhi's no-holds barred attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, followed by an unscripted hug and wink that is still a talking point on social media. While the high-on-optics show in Lok Sabha is seen as one that flustered the BJP, the Congress now has the tougher task of negotiating a way through ambitious allies and non-aligned parties to craft a stable front against the BJP for next year's general elections.
"We are committed to make alliances work and we are all with him (Rahul Gandhi) in this endeavour. We have to rescue our people from a dangerous regime that is compromising the democracy of India," Sonia Gandhi said in her address at the meeting on Sunday.
At the strategy meet on Sunday, the Congress kept a tight focus on alliances. Giving an overview of the party's position in various states, former union minister P Chidambaram called for the broadest possible alliance within states.
During Friday's debate on the no-confidence motion against the government, the BJP's goal was to expose what it said were the divisions within the opposition. In his response, PM Modi said that the Congress was an unreliable ally and a bully. In Saharanpur on Saturday, he compared the united opposition to a swamp. "There is not just one 'dal' (political party) but dal over dal resulting in "dal-dal" (swamp) which will only help the 'lotus" (BJP election symbol) bloom," he said.
After taking a backseat to HD Kumaraswamy's Janata Dal Secular to keep the BJP out of power in Karnataka, Mr Gandhi has indicated that his party was willing to work with opposition parties. This approach has the approval of regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee, who want the smaller parties well-entrenched in states to be given their due. In these tie-ups, it has been suggested, the Congress should continue taking a backseat.
At Sunday's meeting, Sachin Pilot, Shakti Singh Gohil, Ramesh Chennithala however, said the party should continue with strategic alliances but remain at the centre of alliance and Rahul Gandhi should be the face of the alliance. Mr Chennithala also suggested that Mr Gandhi be projected as the Prime Ministerial face, sources said.
In his address on Sunday, the Congress president, who took charge after 20 years of his mother Sonia Gandhi's leadership, reminded the members of the party's role as the "voice of India" and its responsibility of the 'present and future".
Summing up the proceedings in a series his tweets, senior party leader Randeep Surjewala said Mr Gandhi underscored the role of the Congress amid what he called "BJP attacks" on "institutions, dalits, tribals, backwards, minorities & poor".
Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who also addressed the gathering, "rejects the culture of constant self-praise & jumlas of PM as against solid policy framework for driving the engine of growth", Mr Surjewala tweeted.