There is discernible desperation in Congress president Rahul Gandhi focussing on the domestic agenda during his forays abroad, particularly in Germany and England recently, whipping up a storm at home. The agenda for these visits is painstakingly prepared to catch the attention of the Indian diaspora and others as well as whipping up a frenzy at home.
This is unlikely to turn the tide for the oldest political party in the country desperately seeking to revitalise itself. The mentoring apart, Gandhi is prone to committing gaffes, especially when the spontaneity of questions about the prevailing situation with specific reference to the RSS as the ideologue of the BJP has invariably caught him on the wrong foot. While in England, he compared the RSS with the Muslim Brotherhood. Both are socio-cultural organisations backed by political parties. It was clearly a pointer to targetting the country’s plurality and secularism by promoting a certain religious political ideology.
Gandhi insists this is fraught with danger as an organisation is either secular or not. Religious fundamentalism comes in direct clash with secularism. He observed “it is very dangerous in the 21st century to exclude people” while accusing the BJP of doing just that with tribals, Dalits and minorities from the development narrative which entailed serious consequences.
Muslim Brotherhood is an Egypt based organisation known for advocating Muslim solidarity and ultra-Islamic approach. At the same time, Gandhi’s advocacy of dynastic politics failed to do him any good about his leadership credentials. Ever since Narendra Modi won the general elections in 2014 and became the prime minister, there has been no looking back for him and the BJP. The saffron colour is splashed across the country’s map with the Lotus party in power in no less than twenty states in the country.
While the Congress believes in the secular and liberal values of Democracy, the Lotus party is nurtured by ultra-nationalist Hindu ideology. From all accounts, the Congress appears nowhere near giving the BJP a credible fight going by the current popularity ratings showing Modi way ahead compared to any other leader. Impartial observers believe Gandhi has fallen into the familiar trap of Hindu-Muslim narrative where the BJP enjoys a definite edge suiting its vote bank politics.
He needs to think out of the box in infusing confidence in his party with the single point objective of seeing the back of Modi and, in turn, the BJP from retaining power for a second consecutive term on the Raisina Hill in the national capital. The Congress strategy is to concentrate on having alliances in as many States as possible having the potential of keeping the BJP at bay. Once the seemingly improbable agenda of dethroning Modi is achieved, the rest like who will be the prime minister is expected to fall in place.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has echoed similar views that the single point agenda is to see the back of Modi. Who will be the prime minister will be the prerogative of the party which emerges the single largest in the proposed non-BJP coalition arrangement. The Congress is itself to blame for its organisation crumbling because of the party High Command’s overbearing attitude. Its problems are self inflicted resulting in lack of leaders having a mass base in the States which was its strength in the past.
A former union minister reflected the predicament of the Congress when he pointed out the party faces the ignominy of being out of reckoning in no less than 200 out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha with general elections barely eight months away next year. At the same time, Gandhi is trying hard to bolster his image while preparing for the long haul. The Opposition desperately needs to get its act together rather than working in fits and starts.
The BJP, at its meeting with their chief ministers last week, affirmed that Modi should get a second term as the Head of Government.
It has become imperative to evolve sound policy rather than alluding to populism. The question is: Can the non-BJP Opposition, where every leader believes he/she has the potential of being the prime minister, firm up its stand along with making public its policies and programmes for the nation’s allround development rather than making wild and unachievable pledges?
(The writer is a senior journalist and commentator.)