Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday gave clear signs of his party working out a post-poll arrangement with the Left, expressing confidence that the Communists would accept Dr Manmohan Singh as the prime minister heading a Congress-led government.
At a press conference in New Delhi, Gandhi was sure that the Congress would form a government.
"In a democracy, if it so happens, we have no choice," he said, replying to a question whether the Congress would sit in the opposition.
Asked if the Congress would support the Left parties, which had supported the United Progressive Alliance for over four years, in forming the government, Gandhi appeared to be sarcastic when he said, "We will consider that if the Left gets 180-190 members of Parliament. We will consider them. I hope they are able to achieve that. If they do, I will be first person to say let us support the Left."
At the outset he expressed the hope that the Congress will return to power and that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was finished on the ground.
Asked whether the Congress would consider a post-poll tie up again with the Left for forming the government in case of a hung verdict, he said: "On a lot of concepts like education and health, we agree with the Left. There is a lot of meeting ground with the Left. There is absolutely no meeting ground with the BJP for what they did in Gujarat, Karnataka and in Orissa. There is a lot of common ground to do with the Left. There is a reasonable amount of common space," he replied.
Gandhi said the Congress was always open to post-poll alliances and at a later point, in reference to the Left, he made it clear that "the field is open to post-poll alliances".
Asked whether the Congress would compromise on its prime ministerial candidate if the Left does not accept Dr Manmohan Singh, Gandhi said, "Dr Singh is the best prime ministerial candidate for the country. The Congress does not compromise on its thinking, which it showed on the nuclear deal. I am confident that the Left will support the Manmohan Singh government. I am confident that the Left would rather have a Congress prime minister."
Saying his views on the Left was his personal, he said he did say that the Left had old ideas -- 20 to 30 year-old views on the nuclear deal and on integration with the global economy -- but he was confident that the Left would be forced to accept that the world has changed.
He also had some good words for Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar vis-a-vis their government's performance.
Earlier in the press conference, Gandhi referred to the Jayalalithaa-led All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Nitish Kumar saying they were like-minded parties.
"After elections, all options are open. Where is the NDA? It exists only in the mind of the BJP. The NDA does not exist on the ground. It is gone," he said.
To a query on contradictions within the UPA the with Congress projecting Manmohan Singh as prime minister and another UPA ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, projecting Sharad Pawar for the top job, Gandhi said, "If the NCP becomes the biggest party in India that option is open. If the Congress becomes the biggest party, then we have already decided that Manmohan Singh will be the automatic choice. He is an extremely dynamic leader and he has done terrific things for the country."
He dismissed as a "figment of the media's imagination" the suggestions that allies of the Congress were not backing Manmohan Singh as PM.
"They have full faith in our prime minister," he said, and hoped that the Congress would perform better in this election than it did the last time.
Asked whether he would take over as Congress president in view of his stance that he would like to build the organisation or become a minister in a UPA government, he made light of the question saying the media was always putting pressure on him to take up new responsibilities.
"It is for the prime minister and my boss (Congress president) to decide," he said, adding that his first preference was to build the organisation, especially the youth wing.