FPJ Editorial: Congress Should Be Wary Of I.N.D.I.A.

FPJ Editorial: Congress Should Be Wary Of I.N.D.I.A.

The alliance project will prove shaky and unproductive' The Congress on recovering from the poll blow ought to rethink its strategy about I.N.D.I.A.

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, December 06, 2023, 10:19 PM IST
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I.N.D.I.A. Alliance | File pic

The revival of the moribund I.N.D.I.A bloc is being once again talked about. The non-Congress parties seem to have seized upon the Congress party’s defeat in the three Hindi heartland states to rub in the message that without them the Congress cannot defeat the BJP. Though this exaggerates vastly the appeal of these parties in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Congress party at this low moment in its electoral fortunes does seem to have taken the point to heart. Otherwise, the party would not have scheduled a meeting of the dotted alliance on December 6. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee excused themselves citing prior engagements. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin pleaded preoccupation in handling the situation caused by the unseasonal floods in Chennai. Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress President, who had called the meeting, now intends to reschedule it later this month. Notably, Akhilesh Yadav, the leader of the Samajwadi Party, had earlier excused himself from attending the now cancelled December 6 meeting. That after its drubbing in the crucial heartland states, the regional parties nursing a grievance against the Congress’ Big Brother attitude would rebuke it ought to have been clear to Kharge. Particularly when Kamal Nath, the Congress President of the MP unit, had publicly humiliated Yadav when the latter pleaded for a few seats for his party in the recent election. It was now Yadav’s turn to get back at Nath and his party, revelling in the Congress’ humiliation in the polls.

Also, it is interesting to note that the leaders of the JD(U) and Trinamool Congress have openly put forth claims of their respective leaders Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee for prime ministership. Nitish, who was the most vociferous advocate of the I.N.D.I.A bloc, having organised the first conclave of its leaders in Patna, had disavowed any ambition of his own to become prime minister despite unending speculation about him aiming for the top job. His lieutenants have now spoken for him. Mamata Banerjee is certainly on firmer ground, having thrice won in West Bengal on her own in direct contest with both the Marxists and the Congress. In the last Assembly poll she had repulsed a concerted challenge from the BJP. But all these discordant noises by the putative partners underline the clashing ambitions, egos and agendas of the leaders of the I.N.D.I.A bloc. In the absence of a programmatic, thematic unity of purpose, the oversized personal ambitions make the task of formation of a cohesive bloc that much harder.

Defeating the BJP cannot be an end in itself unless there is some clarity as to what would follow. The voter has never been enamoured of a negative, all-against-one gang-up. Indira Gandhi had easily crushed the gang-up of various parties in the Opposition. Ousting Modi in the 2024 parliamentary poll by the Opposition gang-up is bound to fail as well unless these parties have something more concrete to offer for the welfare of the people. In any case, the Indian voter’s experience of “khichdi sarkars” has been particularly bad. That is why it is important that the Congress party, the largest in the dotted bloc, must not allow itself to be hustled into an Opposition gang-up which may be predestined to failure. A uniform, nation-wide alliance may look good on paper but it hardly results in significant accretion in the Opposition vote. For instance, the SP or JD(U) hardly matter outside UP and Bihar. Ditto for Trinamool Congress outside West Bengal and DMK outside Tamil Nadu. Therefore, locating a dominant party in each state, and all other parties playing a supporting role to help the former take on the BJP would be a better, and a workable, arrangement than an omnibus alliance fighting over seat-sharing at poll time. Multi-party alliances with each leader pushing it in different direction causing a PR disaster are not workable.

Besides, the Congress is already in alliances in Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Jharkhand. In the three North Indian states where it lost in last Sunday’s poll neither the AAP nor SP, had the two been in alliance with it, could have prevented its loss. For, neither party has any following in these States. Avoiding a split in the Opposition votes is a sensible goal. For that you don’t require the superstructure of a high-falutin’ alliance but a local level understanding among parties imbued by the shared spirit to achieve a common goal. The alliance project will prove shaky and unproductive. The Congress on recovering from the poll blow ought to rethink its strategy about I.N.D.I.A.

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