Rahul Gandhi, with his strategic mind, deep thoughts, decisive judgement and anger and youth, is a dangerous man, for the Congress. If he pretends to immerse in intense rumination, remains resolute in implementing minor initiatives, flaunts his fury and fire of youth by tearing and tossing scraps of paper, it is harmless. But his pretentious strategies will wreck the Congress rise.
While PM Modi has launched into a constituency giveaway spree, as a dominant opposition space occupier, the Congress simply had to accept it gracefully. After a year, PM Modi has alienated farmers, soldiers, allies, women, proponents of corruption-free India, financial wizards like Deepak Parekh and industrialists like Rahul Bajaj, with more freebies on offer until the next election. Keep it simple. Since Rahul has not heard of Kelly Johnson’s KISS principle, or does not realise that less is more, he fashioned a strategy for a disruptive party to emerge, where it hurts the most, in Delhi and Punjab, where the Congress had the monopoly as the NDA’s opponent. There is nothing more fructuous that the Congress can arm itself with while lunging into the 2019 elections than an assurance that they would devour a major chunk of the anti-incumbency votes.
January 21, 2014. A cold evening outside Rail Bhawan in central Delhi. The lackadaisical Home Minister of India, stung by an affront — ‘Who is Shinde to tell me where to sit to protest?’ — was readying for the kill by letting his bête noir stew in his own juices, the offender tangling himself in public ridicule by trying to disrupt the Republic Day parade. Enters the master strategist. Into the pond of his grey cells plopped the thought, let’s split the BJP vote. He instructed, it is said, to reward the self-proclaimed anarchist with a face saving formula. Although he never studied history, never went on a pilgrimage where his illustrious ancestors underwent incarceration or pondered about the destiny of the nation, although his father did not write a series of ‘letters to Rahul’ to enlighten his son from the cellular jail of Andaman, which he visited as a tourist, sparing aircraft carrier Virat unlike his Lakshadweep vacation, the immense repository of political manoeuvres and tactics lie like memory in Rahul’s blood.
Sacrificing their core constituencies to prop up AAP three times will bleed the Congress to languish at a distant third or fourth in Delhi, Punjab and other states in the long run, as its fortunes, once soaring, nosedived in U.P., Bihar and West Bengal in the last few decades. A massive blow will be inflicted to the core asset of the party, the morale of the huge and all pervasive base of its followers.
In its heydays, the Congress dominated 17 major states with 154 to 415 MPs, whereas in the second phase it won 44 to a maximum of 206 seats by remaining relevant in 12 states (232 seats) that manifest cyclical ascendancy of two parties. If AAP usurps a major role in Delhi, Punjab and three more states, exploiting the Delhi platform to stage his shows, reducing the total seats in bipolar states to 125, the Congress can hope for a maximum of 110 seats in a harvesting year. Rahul Gandhi will find nothing more conducive to the blunting of his appetite to savour votes than to have Kejriwal, along with other pliant regional satraps, sitting beside Rahul at supper, fouling his handkerchief with the exhaust of his loudmouth, and surreptitiously trying, behind conceited smiles, to garner a bigger slice of a hot pie.
In such a scenario, on February 10, 2015, when AAP managed to fool the Delhiites for a second time within a year, an ominous situation evolved for the Congress, yet its leaders’ faces lit up with impish glee and a frisson of schadenfreude over the BJP’s debacle. The multiple terms awarded to performing chief ministers like Shivraj Chauhan, Modi, Raman Singh and Parrikar and the theme of good governance crafted by Modi during his campaign had ingrained the urge to accomplish in all the chief ministers. Or so we thought. Kejriwal might have grabbed the chief-ministership again by falsehood and histrionics, but would deploy efficient administration to rise further.
Fortunately for the Congress, the events of the last six months have unmasked his incompetence and incapability to govern. He has to rely on his wares of drama and making a spectacle of himself to retain core and acquire new supporters. With an eye on the anti-drug sentiments in Punjab, Alka Lamba of AAP enacted a farcical anti-drug movement in Delhi by tonsuring and bathing possibly hired men and then testing if she had exorcised the drug addict in them by subjecting them to catch-practice with fruity packs, crowning it by the trademark trick of an alleged stone thrown at her head and a sympathy invoking bandage. The Congress, because Kejriwal is consumed by a cacoethes to present a degrading show of clumsiness and empty theatrics, cannot be complacent, for the unpredictable electorate might declare the C- grade slapstick a super hit series.
Before the Congress fights another major election, before it risks another humiliating defeat and before it adds to the mounting evidence that its dominating ways and days are over, it needs to develop a flawless strategy. It must change the course on the AAP front. Although the Congress has to take on the BJP in the final, although, as an editorial stated, its leaders might sit up from sleep with sweat of BJP-phobia, it has to eliminate AAP in the first round to qualify for the main battle. When Kejriwal throws tantrums, the Congress must expose him instead of balancing its criticism against both the BJP and AAP and confusing Delhiites. If they do not correct these self-inflicting methods, one can conclude that they have deeper connotations.
In sharp contrast, rather than trying to obliterate the Congress, the main enemy, by nailing its corruption, Modi is busy annihilating his perceived opponents, old and foes feeble from his own party. Strange creatures, enemies. They help each other. The Congress can facilitate Modi to bite the dust for his imprudent and ego-caressing measures like the land bill and OROP and protest throughout the country for other ill-conceived designs, but if they do not calibrate the obstructionist methods in proportion to the government’s follies and stymie the essential reforms by blocking the parliamentary process, instead of Modi, in 2019, the Congress, as opposition leaders, will face the wrath of anti-incumbency.