One of the biggest Takeaways from Malikarjun Kharge’s one year stint in office pertains to his successful style of functioning, an impression of taking concrete decisions, a silent spadework undertaken by him while working in tandem with Nitish Kumar, CM, Bihar to bring regional straps on one platform to give birth to I.N.D.I.A, sincere efforts to bring factional leaders in the party together to fight against BJP in poll bound states besides keeping Gandhi family in loop.
Political observers believe that it will be a gross injustice to pass judgment on the success or failure of Kharge who was elected a year back on Oct 26,2022 amidst the uncertainty and ambiguity about Rahul Gandhi taking over as elected AICC president. But his election had certainly robbed BJP of its biggest weapon of accusing Gandhis of making the Grand Old Party as a family outfit especially when a Dalit with 50 years’ experience in politics was anointed at the helm of affairs of the party.
Future Task Is Full Of Challenges
Experts say that Kharge will have to pass litmus test in ensuing assembly elections in five states as credit and discredit will go to his management skill of distribution of tickets, checking dissensions, creating workable arrangements amongst the aspirants of top slots like Rajasthan, checking to a reasonable extent a remote control of Gandhi family etc.
But Kharge’s most challenging task emanates from the formulation of a broadly agreed mechanism and strategy for distribution of the tickets in five states in his party.2nd,he will have to hold the consultations with the top leaders of constituents of I.N.D.I.A to avoid fielding their weak candidates as it may be tool amounting to voter cutter which may prove counterproductive. In case, he succeeds then it will become a solid basis of giving a tough fight to BJP as it is laced with vast resources, committed party cadres, well-oiled machinery of RSS and popular like Narender Modi.
Kharge’s Appointment Had Snatched A Potential Poll Issue Of Family Rule
Gandhi family’s decision to keep away from election of AICC president had surprised many but it was a rude shock to BJP which had successfully exploited to the hilt an issue of Gandhi family’s rule in Congress since decades but installation of a non-Gandhi leader after 25 years that too a Dalit did help in sidetracking this accusation of saffron party. Modi had expressed his apprehensions that Kharge will be remote controlled by Gandhi family which was countered by the congress reminding him of alienation and ignoring top leaders of BJP including L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Experts say that BJP is finding it difficult to take on Kharge as it involves the risk of annoying Dalits in the country which may prove damaging .
New AICC President Seems To Be Satisfied So Far
Kharge is a politician who knows his limits which may be a key factor in his success of carrying everyone along including Gandhi Family. He does not believe in hypocrisy and openly acknowledges the relevance and importance of Gandhi family members especially Rahul Gandhi who will be an obvious choice in future whenever he wants it. Kharge is making relentless efforts to wipe off the tag of remote control hence he has taken several independent decisions which may not be to the liking of Gandhis .
The party’s victories in Karnataka and Himachal went to his credit as he was able to manage inner contradictions though he has dubbed such task as most difficult one. Kharge and Rahul Gandhi worked in tandem to bring Siddaramaiah and his arch rival Shiv Kumar at one platform which had sent right signal to the party workers in Karnataka prior to polls. Priyanka was made sole incharge of Himachal polls by Kharge which paid rich dividends as she was able to handle factional leaders and executed the poll strategy despite heavy odds. Similarly, Kharge held four meetings with Rajasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot and former state president, Sachin Pilot to convince them about the utility of fighting assembly polls together to keep BJP at bay. Chhattisgarh is another glaring example of his handling sensitive issues with maturity and patience which is evident from the fact that CM, Bupesh Bhagel and his staunch critic, T.S.Singh Dev have agreed to bury their hatchet to fight assembly polls together. Interestingly, Singh’s appointment as deputy CM was done after a written directive came from party headquarters Delhi to CM Baghel which had created a soothing effect on Dev’s prestige and resolved the internal crisis.
Analysts recognize the fact that Kahge had played a significant role in stitching pre poll alliance with different opposition partied leaders including Nitish Kumar, JD(U), Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, etc. who have got a great respect for the AICC president. Due to scare of chances of re-election of Modi in 2024, unpredictable leaders like Arvind Kejrirwal , Mamata etc. have also fallen in line and are ready to adopt a flexible attitude while discussing the seat sharing formula.
Kharge has been adopting the principle of consultations which was never witnessed in the Congress as decisions were taken by Gandhi family and everyone was bound to accept it. He took 6 months to reconstitute the CWC but tried to accommodate senior and younger generation leaders which was done after wide ranging consultations and seeking the views of even state leaders. Kharge has been able to keep Rahul Gandhi on his side to create a balance otherwise the former president’s loyalists could have created a serious trouble for him.
In final assessment, outcome of the five state polls will have direct bearing on Kharge’s leadership though real test lies ahead in 2024 which will be do and die for BJP as well as Congress as major partner of I.N.D.I.A.
(Writer is political analyst and senior journalist based in Shimla)