Congress faces an insurmountable mountain to climb
Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
Politically speaking, the ruling BJP at the Centre, is in a happy zone – and has achieved the threshold that will propel it to victory after victory, just like the Congress dominated the political scene after Independence.
But this does not mean India has or will become Congress Mukt–as the party continues to show signs of resilience and rides the dissatisfaction of the people with the BJP here and there, like it happened in Himachal Pradesh. But even in the hilly State, whose electoral history dictated that this time it was the Congress’s turn to win and rule, the Congress came very near to losing this consolation prize, after having been pulverized and decimated in Gujarat.
Now whether by design, or accident, the BJP these days, almost always, benefited from the presence and emergence of newer political players. This pheno- menon enables the BJP to overcome extremely difficult situations on the ground and emerge victorious. Without taking away anything from the tactical brilliance and ruthless execution of election strategies of the BJP leadership–whether it is superior propaganda, manpower, deployment of resources, carpet bombing of poll campaigning–what gives the BJP an aura of invincibility is the splintered Opposition that keeps splintering further with each episode of electoral politics playing out in the country.
Notwithstanding the small, small consolation victories of Opposition parties– AAP in Delhi Municipal Elections, and Congress in Himachal Pradesh in the just held round of elections–the BJP manages to win the elections that matter, and in this round the Gujarat that, for the BJP, is much more than a mere State election. It is already being portrayed as the continued success of the Gujarat Model that won for the BJP and Prime Minister Modi the chance to dislodge the Manmohan Singh Govt.
Just consider the negatives the BJP leadership was up against–an apparent disenchantment of people with the Government on many issues, almost all sections of the society sitting on protests for this or that reason, unemployment, price rise, and above all a ghastly ‘man-made’ Morbi disaster that led to nearly 150 deaths–but the party managed to not only beat the anti-incumbency of 27 years but also create a pro-incumbency mood and won a record majority.
This result gives the Prime Minister and his strategists, led by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the political status and power that leaders like Mrs Indira Gandhi enjoyed in her own party and polity of the Nation. Gujarat victory goes to prove the ability of the BJP to turn its adversities into advantages when it comes to electoral politics, its opponents may continue to cry foul over the means of its achievements. The familiar complaints about EVMs are no longer being taken seriously by the people and all the Congress laments about “B-teams of BJP in fray” make no material difference to the political reality on the ground.
And even if, for argument’s sake one considers the presence of ‘B-teams’ or vote cutters, there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional against the penchant of any individual or political party to contest elections, anywhere in the country – within the ambit of the rules and regulations concerning the reserved Assembly or Parliamentary seats.
In this context, the entry of yet another ‘National’ political player other than Aam Aadmi Party, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti rechristened as Bhartiya Rashtra Samiti (BRS), makes the going tougher for the Congress and its revival, it hopes to achieve through the Bharat Jodo Yatra that if anything has helped improve the image of its former president Rahul Gandhi. Other than taking a few of the anti-BJP votes that ideally should have gone to the Congress, the BJP’s only National rival, the presence of these parties adds to the Congress bashing and helps the BJP narrative on where and who is the Opposition.
It helps the BJP that different regional satraps from different political dispensations fight the Congress in their respective regions, and can hardly come together to take the BJP on. For example, in West Bengal the Trinamool Congress fights the Congress and hence it cannot ally or have an electoral understanding with the Congress for the Lok Sabha elections. Take the case of Telangana, to cite another example, even in its depleted form, it is the Congress that takes on the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti and is hopeful of its revival in the State that sends 17 Lok Sabha MPs. So, the Congress not only has to contend with TRS as its political adversary in the State, but now also at the National level with its entry onto the National plane.
Even a roadside panwalah in India is a political expert enough to understand that the BJP has no chance if the Opposition unites–as still around 60 percent of India votes for other parties, a phenomenon that benefitted the Congress till the BJP replaced it as the major political pole around which politics revolves–but this simply cannot happen because of the individual political ambitions and king-sized egos of different leaders. And this is the potion that gives strength to the BJP and adds to its near invincibility status.
So, when the BJP questions who against Modi and successfully reiterates the There Is No Alternative narrative (that once was the tag line of the Congress under Indira Gandhi), the fault lines within the Opposition get more accentuated, and the conversation thus generated lends itself to being used for derisive dismissal of the Opposition and paint it as power hungry, corrupt and inept grouping that was bent upon preventing the Modi Government from making India great.
Yes, it is raising all the issues that matter to the masses, but when it comes to convincing people its past comes in the way and it finds earning the trust of the people has become tougher and tougher. Can the Congress, that kickstarted privatisation, liberalisation, and globalisation under the economic liberalisation (which also led to increase in economic inequalities between the rich and the poor in terms of both direction and quantum), question the policies other than to claim and allege that these were being mismanaged and poorly implemented ?
All these add up to an apparently insurmountable mountain confronting an injured Congress. And while the Congress is thus busy in attempts to revive itself, the ruling BJP revs up the electoral political highway at an acceleration that’s impossible to catch. But no one is writing off the Congress, as it remains the party that can, theoretically, take the BJP on Nationally and pose a threat. For the present, though the threat appears to be feeble. But what happens in the future, only time will tell.