Rahul is working with the Opposition to defeat the BJP, which is fine. But whither Congress post-2019?
The Congress Party under party president Rahul Gandhi has obviously made a crucial political assessment. It is this: The Narendra Modi-led BJP/NDA Government must be dislodged from power at the Centre come what may in the 2019 General Election. Which is to say that is its overriding political priority, which is unlike the situation prevailing in, say, the 1998-2004 period when the AB Vajpayee-led BJP/NDA regime was in power and the Congress under Sonia Gandhi opposed it of course but with a view to presenting itself as the alternative.
The crucial and most significant shift in its position is that today, the Congress is not offering itself as an alternative but is joining forces with a rag-tag bunch of political players including regional satraps many of whom it has bitterly opposed in the past only to ensure the defeat of the Modi Government. Politically that’s fair game. But, and without at this stage going into the detailed reasons and/or logic if any of this decision, and even assuming the combined Opposition does manage to put up a one-on-one fight against the BJP in 350-400 Lok Sabha seats and further assuming mathematics will trump chemistry to result in the current regime being voted out come 2019, where does that leave the Congress Party? That is the question being asked by many, including those sympathetic to the Congress and those with no love lost for the current leadership of the BJP but still interested in ensuring the nation comes first.
Some Congress insiders have argued in off-the-record conversations that the party’s assessment of the current regime is very different from how it viewed the earlier NDA regime given the clear majority won by Modi for the BJP and its alleged subservience to the RSS, given the leadership of both the party and the Sangh has passed into more kattar hands. Anyone who was around when the demonology built around the BJP from the late 1980s onwards by the Congress and its civil society affiliates which, including the vicious vilification of LK Advani and the relentless mocking of Vajpayee not to mention the borderline defamatory narrative about the Sangh would, however, tend to take this assessment with a pinch of salt. It is far more likely that the Congress, which has essentially been a political organisation interested in attaining and retaining power especially after its last direct links with the Independence movement ended in the post-Nehru era, has released that on balance in the current scenario — wherein a popular Prime Minister with pan-India recognition backed by an even more formidable election machine is in place — going it alone would mean the BJP getting re-elected would be a near-certainty. Ergo, a so-called grand Opposition alliance is the best bet. But in that scenario, with the give and take implicit for such an alliance to be credible on the ground and result in Lok Sabha seats, the Congress will have to concede: (i) Primacy to other Opposition players in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Tamil Nadu; (ii) Substantial if less than half the Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir and Haryana; (iii) Be satisfied in contesting and trying to maximize the seats it wins with the help of other regional parties so the anti-BJP vote is not split in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Gujarat. Do the math. Even if all goes according to plan for the Congress, it is looking at winning around 125 seats. Which may be enough for it to live to fight another day but will sound the death knell for the revival of the party in any substantial way. The Congress if it wants to put the party first would be better advised to play a lone hand with seat adjustments in only a few States such as Tamil Nadu and the like where it’s been over 40 years since it got more than 10 per cent of the vote, even it means a sub-100 LS seat performance and a better chance for the BJP to be re-elected. At least its vote share would be up, its pan-India presence intact and it could spend the next few years re-building the party while anti-incumbency does the rest, so it is in position to be a credible alternative after polls in 2019.
Writer: The Pioneer
Courtesy: The Pioneer