Kharge’s Possible Projection As PM Face May Create A Narrative Of Dalit-South-North-Backward To Counter Modi’s OBC Brand Of Politics

Kharge’s Possible Projection As PM Face May Create A Narrative Of Dalit-South-North-Backward To Counter Modi’s OBC Brand Of Politics

KS TomarUpdated: Tuesday, January 16, 2024, 01:21 PM IST
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Mallikarjun Kharge | File

Contrary to expectations, I.N.D.I.A block has overcome one of the biggest hurdles of evolving consensus on a Dalit leader and AICC president ,Mallikarjun Kharge as its chairperson who will have an advantage of representing four ingredients including Dalit-South-North-Backward which could prove fruitful if executed with perfection by the alliance partners .

Experts say that the final take away pertains to a query whether INDIA will project him as prime ministerial candidate or status will be ceremonial one?

Babu Jagjivan Ram, a tallest Dalit national leader was a minister in Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi cabinets but four attempts to become PM alluded him though he was the most acceptable candidate for this post. Janata Party won the elections in 1977 and the duo Jayprakash Narayan and J.B. Kriplani was assigned the task of choosing the candidate but unfortunately, they favored Morarji Desai and ignored the most capable Dalit leader, Jagjivan Ram thereby ending his lifelong dream. J.P and J. B’s decision proved a suicidal step as owing to controversial and dictatorial style of functioning of Desai including vendetta politics, Janta party government collapsed which preceded withdrawal of the support by Raj Narain and Chaudhry Charan Singh in 1979. Had Babu Jagjivan Ram got an opportunity, Janata party government could have completed a full term as he was a capable manager, flexible and astute politician. Kharge also falls in Jagjivam Ram’s category hence alliance may be benefited in 2024 provided they do not adopt suicidal path of letting down each other?

Now a scare amongst the opposition parties’ leaders, about the certainty of repeat of Modi as PM in 2024, has forced them to put their weight behind Kharge who qualifies for the post on the basis of merit having administrative skill, acceptability amongst the non -congress straps, experience, Dalit tag, clean image etc.

Kharge Faces Hordes Of Challenges

Political observers feel that topmost challenge of Kharge pertains to sharing of seats which is a complex and ticklish problem as it is embedded in self-centered approach of regional parties’ leaders, inflated egos, inflexibility and over estimation about their popularity vis-a-vis states thereby undermining BJP’s aggressiveness and killing spirit.

2nd, Congress party’s stakes are higher than other constituents as it will have a One to one contest with BJP in 150 Lok Sabha Seats primarily spread over in Hindi heartland. None can deny the fact that Congress has got Pan India appeal which enhances the acceptance of Kharge to lead the 28 parties’ alliance.

3rd,though west Bengal chief minister ,Mamata Banerjee and Delhi CM ,Arvind Kejriwal mooted the name of Kharge for the PM’s face yet it will an uphill task to finalize the sharing of the states as both leaders are known for their hard stance .Kejriwal has shown his inflexibility in Punjab and Delhi as he is giving weightage to weak organizational strength of Congress hence would like to corner maximum seats. Similarly, Banerjee has argued that TMC has defeated BJP in the past also hence Congress and left parties should agree to contest minimum number of seats.

4th, experts say that Mamata-Kejriwal combine had created a flutter in INDIA block meeting as they floated Kharge’s name for the post of PM hence they will be under moral obligation to ensure success of seat-sharing formula. Kejriwal feels indebted to Kharge for overruling the Delhi and Punjab units of the party while supporting the Delhi Ordinance Bill in the parliament hence he may not adopt a hard stance during sharing of seats.

5th, the onus of adopting the maximum flexibility lies at the door of Congress which happens to be the largest constituent of the block and responsibility of failure of talks will rest on this party which may force it to make maximum sacrifices .Congress party may keep winnability factors in view in Punjab, Delhi and West Bengal while agreeing to the seats demanded by AAP and TMC.

New Narrative To Counter Modi’s OBC Card

Analysts opine that Kharge’s Dalit and backwardness background coupled with exploitation of southern sentiments may yield results hence he will have to work on the formulation of an effective poll strategy and mechanism to outsmart BJP. It may be an advantage for Kharge who is being credited for Karnataka and Telangana assemblies’ victory which may help the alliance in general elections. BJP had won 25 out of 28 seats in Karnataka in 2019 but now Congress is a ruling party and Kharge is chairperson of INDIA which may have bearing on the outcome of polls in 2024.But Kharge is not well known in Hindi heartland which will make his task most difficult and he can wriggle out of it by depending upon regional leaders .

In view of Dalits forming 16 % of entire population in the country, Kharge as a Dalit face of PM may be expected to create an impact in Lok Sabha seats in the states like Karnataka ( 21 seats in Kharge’s home state), 17 in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala (18), MP (16) etc. which are reserved for SC category .The Dalits can act as ‘Kingmakers’ in 30 Lok Sabha as their percentage of population ranges from 21% to 40 percent. Kharge may stimulate and galvanize the promise of caste census if he becomes PM.

BJP Will Be Devoid Of Its Most Effective Weapon Of ‘Parivarvaad’(Dynasty Politics)

Kharge’s election as national president of Congress and current appointment as a chairperson of INDIA alliance may deprive BJP of its most effective ammunition of family rule which would have brought fruit had Rahul Gandhi come on the forefront though several regional leaders like M.K. Stalin, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Hemant Soren, left parties etc. supported his candidature but he declined owing to the proposed Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. Some of the senior leaders in Delhi did not mince the word when they said that BJP would have preferred Rahul versus Modi but now a new strategy will be chalked out to counter Kharge. At the same time, Rahul Gandhi will be making his contribution through Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra covering 6,700 kms in fifteen states including Maharashtra, UP,West Bengal, Bihar, West Bengal etc. which is likely to cover one hundred parliamentary seats and 337 assembly segments. it may energize the party cadres and create an impression amongst the people about Rahul’s commitment to highlight their problems. Experts say that it will give an opportunity to focus on the burning issues of common man, unemployment of youths, skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, etc. which are being put under the carpet by NDA by camouflaging the same through a big Hindutva weapon i.e. Ram Temple and Modi Guarantee slogan besides his OBC background.

Common Minimum Programme And Election Campaign Thrust

Experts say that INDIA Block will have no option but to agree on a minimum programme with new projections and hope to the people. Kharge’s entry as INDIA’s chief may help alliance to give the color of Dalit-centric politics to checkmate the BJP’s thrust on Hindutva. A joint poll strategy will be the need of hour to face well -oiled machinery of RSS, committed BJP cadres, vast resources, an advanced planning and above all, “Modi Guarantee”, ‘Charisma’ and tireless cagmagging capacity of PM besides ten-year achievements of NDA government. BJP is also enthused over recent historical victory in three states which strengthens its narrative of providing political stability in the country as against the contradictory approach of INDIA partners. On the other hand, Kharge at 73 may not be able to match Modi’s exemplary energy who will be laced with Ram Temple, abrogation of article 370, execution of UCC after getting 3rd term, free ration to 80 crore beneficiaries and several sparkling achievements.

In final assessment, analysts opine that it will be too early to jump to the conclusion of success or failure of the major task of seat sharing and other poll related issues of INDIA Alliance but some beginning has been made hence sense of optimism is pervading amongst the constituents of block.

(Writer is political analyst and senior journalist based in Shimla)

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