Mumbai, Feb 24: The countdown to 2019 General Election has already started. Both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are busy preparing for the all-important polls which will be held next year.
While the BJP is hoping to retain its 282 seats in the upcoming Parliamentary elections so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could remain in his office for a second term, the Congress is working hard to change its fortunes and increase its tally in the Lok Sabha so that its president Rahul Gandhi could replace Modi from the country's top post.
The Congress is firmly standing behind Rahul as its leader, however, the grand old party's probable alliance partners for the 2019 elections seem not so impressed with the Gandhi scion.
Gujarat's Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel on Friday said he did not consider Congress president as "my leader" and favoured the entry of Priyanka Gandhi into active politics.
"I like Rahul Gandhi at a personal level, but I do not consider him as a leader because he is not my leader," Patel said at an event in Mumbai. Patel, who has been agitating for reservation for the Patidar community of Gujarat, had worked closely with the Congress during the Assembly polls held in the state in December last year. During an interactive session organised by a television channel, Patel went on to add that Rahul's sister Priyanka should join active politics.
He claimed that if the Congress had supported his movement with "full capacity", the BJP's tally in the Gujarat Assembly polls would have been 60 seats and not 99. The Congress had bagged 77 seats in the 182-member House. "But it gives me great pleasure to see the full strength of the Congress representatives in the Gujarat Assembly. Now, they (Congress MLAs) are raising the voice of the people of Gujarat confidently," Patel said.
Such open declaration to refuse Rahul's leadership by politicians and parties known to be close to the Congress does not augur well for the grand old party before heading for the 2019 polls.
On Friday, during a discussion, Congress leader and MP Jyotiraditya Scindia told NDTV that Rahul is the face of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). So if the Congress-led UPA comes to power at the Centre in the next elections, Rahul is likely to be made the PM. However, the UPA needs more alliance partners to fight the might of the BJP in the upcoming LS polls.
In such circumstances, there is a fair chance that Rahul might be rejected as the leader of the coalition government as Hardik on Friday told the media. Reports of Priyanka joining politics have been doing the rounds for a long time. However, till now there is no indication of Priyanka, known to carry the aura of former PM Indira Gandhi, joining politics. But the comment by Hardik reaffirms the fact that a lot of people want Priyanka to join politics.