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Congress 'open to backing Mamata Banerjee or Mayawati as PM in 2019' - Report

Days after announcing that party president Rahul Gandhi will be its prime ministerial candidate in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha election, Congress sources told journalists on Tuesday that they will support any candidate who isn?t backed by the Sangh parivar or the Bharatiya Janata Party.

They were responding to a journalist's question about whether the party will back Mamata Banerjee or Mayawati as prime minister next year.

The sources attacked the BJP and RSS attitude to women and said that the Congress will soon have more women in decision-making roles.

"Alliances in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will be the key to defeating Narendra Modi," they said. The sources also believe that it will be difficult for Modi to clinch a second term if the party fails to win more than 280 seats as the current NDA allies and even leaders within the BJP are miffed with the prime minister's autocratic style of working.

Attacking the ruling government's approach towards India's allies abroad, the Congress sources slammed Modi for "leaving Bhutan hanging out to dry" in an attempt to salvage relationship with China.

Talking about Rahul Gandhi's 'spontaneous' hug in the parliament, the sources claimed that it was the party president's way of thanking the prime minister for bringing him to the fore.

While Gandhi has been seen as a reluctant politician by critics and a light-weight opponent by BJP leaders, the manner in which the 48-year-old Congress president has been targeted by the party and Modi has raised his profile in the national political game.

The Congress's willingness to back Mamata, Mayawati or indeed any other candidate for prime minister so long as they are not part of a BJP arrangements suggests a certain firming up of the party's policy towards strategic alliances for the 2019 election.

The Congress fought the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh elections in alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party respectively. Fore the 2016 elections, the party had an arrangement with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).