Amarinder Singh bats for Rahul Gandhi as PM face for joint opposition alliance in 2019 polls

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Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today backed Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate of a joint opposition alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. At the extended meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), he also supported senior party leader P Chidambarams views on the need for a broad-based alliance with other opposition parties. Reiterating his earlier stand, Singh said Rahul was fully competent to lead the country and would surely prove to be a successful prime minister. He said the Congress should explore all alliance possibilities for next years Lok Sabha elections and Rahul should lead the joint opposition front to oust the divisive BJP-led NDA from power. The alignments will have to happen at the national level. Whatever call the national leadership will take on alliances and whatever they decide will apply to the states, he told reporters at Parliament House Annexe after addressing the meeting. The Punjab chief minister said alliances for the Lok Sabha polls would be worked out by the party at the national level, with the state units following suit. Asked if he was open to an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which the Congress had routed in Punjab, he said, This is a decision to be taken at the national level. The alliances will be dependent on where the central leadership takes us. And wherever it takes us, we will go. Singh also said the alliance at the national level should be made as big as possible to include many players to take on and defeat the BJP. Amarinder Singh said he supported former finance minister P Chidambaram, who told the CWC that the Congress would have to enter broad-based alliances to win the 2019 elections. I endorse what Mr Chidambaram has said All the like-minded parties who want to restore Indias glorious secular and harmonious character should get together in their collective interest, and more importantly in the interest of the country, Singh said. To a question on the peoples mood in Punjab ahead of the LS polls, the chief minister said it was entirely in favour of the Congress. Pointing out that the Congress had won Gurdaspur and Shahkot with record margins in recent months, he expressed confidence that the party would win hands down in the parliamentary elections next year. I have promised them (the high command) Punjab, and will give it to them, he said, adding that he had also told them, if you want to use us elsewhere too, we are there. Replying to another question, Singh said the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was their main opponent in the state. In response to a question, the chief minister said there was no harm in bringing the new vice chancellor of Panjab University in Chandigarh from the Banaras Hindu University. Top academicians can be from any state and there is nothing wrong in appointing them to universities in the other states, he added when asked about the appointment of Raj Kumar, Dean and Head of Institute of Management Studies, BHU, as Panjab University VC.