Analysing Pros & Cons: Projecting Mallikarjun Kharge, The Towering Dalit Leader, As PM Face Of INDIA Bloc

Analysing Pros & Cons: Projecting Mallikarjun Kharge, The Towering Dalit Leader, As PM Face Of INDIA Bloc

Kharge meticulously handled the situation as he gave top priority to win the majority seats in the elections whereas other issues can be kept in abeyance.

KS TomarUpdated: Sunday, December 24, 2023, 11:10 AM IST
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Mallikarjun Kharge | File

One of the biggest Takeaways of recent I.N.D.I.A alliance meeting pertained to a ‘Googly’ by Mamata Banerjee with the connivance of Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal and Udhav Thakre to float the name of Congress president, Mallikarjun Kharge as I.N.D.I.A’s Prime ministerial face in 2024 which caused ripples amongst the alliance partners but Kharge meticulously handled the situation as he gave top priority to win the majority seats in the elections whereas other issues can be kept in abeyance.

Political observers feel that Mamata Banerjee’s political move could be a by-product of the well calculated strategy which might serve a twin purpose. First, it may be aimed at keeping Nitish Kumar at bay though it can bring congress in confrontation with JD(U) and RJD in Bihar.

It could have also put congress in an embarrassing position but Kharge refused to take the enticement and clarified that his top priority pertained to focusing on a one-point programme of defeating BJP. He did not give weightage to the ploy of deciding the PM face as it will become reality only if INDIA wins the majority in the elections otherwise it will remain a mirage.

Major challenges being faced by I.N.D.I.A.

Experts say that a scarce and fear of Modi’s return for a third time in 2024 may be amplified and followed by ruthless actions of investigating agencies thereby landing several opposition leaders in jail. It is being dubbed as a primary reason which may contribute in the complex tangle of sharing of the seats.

A cursory look at the anti-Congress contempt of Mamata and Kejriwal shows that it was a biggest hurdle in the adjustment of seats but ‘change of hearts’ seem to be the fallout of the vision of working on a bigger plan to oust BJP in 2024.

The recent defeat of Congress in three states may also act as a blessing in disguise for finalizing future strategy, common minimum programme and manifesto as the Grand Old party is currently at the receiving end hence flexibility will be visible in making sacrifices wherever necessary.

INDIA alliance’s factional leaders believe that seat sharing can play a pivotal role in infusing an element of arithmetic and trust as combined strength may be fruitful in avoiding the split in votes which can help the alliance to achieve the final goal though it may be ‘wishful thinking’ also.

What are the advantages of Kharge, a tallest Dalit leader, as PM candidate

1. Experts feel that while proposing the name of Mallikarjun Kharge for the post of prime minister, West Bengal chief minister has floated the name of a most protuberant Dalit leader who has got potential to challenge PM, Narender Modi in 2024.

2. A majority of regional leaders may agree to the proposal of Mamata, Kejriwal and Udhav Thakre as Kharge is the most acceptable, cool headed, mature and experienced leader who can take everyone along.

3. It can sway the Dalit votes in the entire country if he gets a rare opportunity to become PM which was denied to late Jagjivan Ram by the Congress. Jagjivan Ram nurtured an ambition to become PM but he never got a chance especially owing to the extreme position enjoyed by late Indira Gandhi at that time.

4. Eighty-four Lok Sabha seats including 21 from Karnataka (Kharge’s home state), 17 in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala (18), MP (16) etc. are reserved for SC category in the country and Dalits can act as ‘Kingmakers’ in 30 Lok Sabha as their percentage of population ranges from 21% to 41 %.

Modi versus Kharge: Strength and weaknesses

Experts feel that nothing is certain for the moment about the finalization of Kharge as face of the alliance which can be attributed to personal ambition, inflated egos and contempt for Congress.

But there can be some anxiety in saffron party and RSS camps which would have preferred to make the 2024 contest as Modi versus Rahul Gandhi .The reason is simple. BJP has been putting congress on the mat on the accusation of ‘Parivarvad’ but it will not stick to Kharge who hails from a deprived section of the society and first leader from non-Gandhi family in two and half decades.

Kharge is a Dalit and BJP cannot afford to attack him as it has got a risk of alienating the Dalits from the party in the country. Besides having ten straight wins to his credit, he has exhibited his management skill and administrative quality by controlling factionalism in Congress though not fully.

He has got positives of winning Karnataka, Himachal and Telangana which has given him a lot of confidence though loss in three states has neutralized this political advantage. Kharge is the tallest leader in the alliance and even constituents recognize his qualities to take on Modi.

But on the weaker front, Kharge can be a popular face in southern states but he does not have appeal in Hindi heartland which is so essential to become a force in 2024.

He had lost his seat in 2019 which can be exploited by NDA while comparing with Modi with him. Modi has shown his potential even to win assembly elections for BJP. The age factor is also a worrying element for Kharge who is 81-year-old and it may be an uphill task to campaign relentlessly in the entire country.

Contrary to it, it makes a good and impressive reading embedded in reality when experts analyze Modi's ‘Charisma’ and his extreme popularity which goes beyond the realm of our country. The loss of Himachal and Karnataka might have put a question mark over Modi’s capacity to ensure the victory of the party in state polls.

But Modi has tilted pendulum in his favor as he is being primarily credited for the recent spectacular victory in three states elections which were fought on his name i.e. “Modi’s Guarantee.” BJP high command and RSS had taken a huge risk of exposing Modi in these elections as none of the state leaders including sitting chief minister, Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan was projected as CM candidate.

It was an overriding reason for effecting generational change by nominating young and not much-known faces as new CMs in three states.

Modi has already launched his campaign to ensure a third successive win in 2024 by coining a new phraseology which says that he does not believe in a caste system as his vision consists of India’s four castes only including youth, farmers, OBC and the development of women, Modi has got the gift of oratory and extraordinary skill to divert the attention of common people even from anti-incumbency, price rise, unemployment, opposition parties’ onslaught besides a having an extraordinary talent of connecting with the masses in the entire country.

At the age of 73, Modi has got tremendous capacity to campaign in all parts of the country which puts him in a unique category.

Motive and calculations

Political observers feel that Mamata and Kejriwal have tried to kill two birds with one stone. Both leaders have eliminated the chances of Rahul Gandhi and snatched the issue of ‘Parivarvad’ from BJP. It is an open secret that several regional satraps like M.K.Stalin, Udhav Thakre, Hemant Soren etc. might support Rahul especially when Sonia Gandhi is desperate to see him as PM but present scenario may not permit such an equation.

Genesis of change of hearts of Mamata and Kejriwal

Mamata Banerjee, a fiery and aggressive leader parted company with Congress in 1998 and founded her own party i.e. All India Trinamool Congress (AITC OR TMC) after holding several important positions in the Grand Old Party including West Bengal youth congress president in 1990.She was youth affairs, sports and women and child development minister in the late Narsimha Rao cabinet.

She bade Goodbye to Congress after accusing it of being a stooge of CPI(M) in West Bengal. This is how Mamata's independent political journey started and reached the peak of her career in 21011 when she ousted communists and became CM.

Notwithstanding her bitterness towards Congress, Mamata always had a sweet relation with Sonia Gandhi but failed to develop an identical rapport with Rahul Gandhi. Her change of heart can be attributed to unequivocal stand taken by Sonia Gandhi vis-à-vis Mahua Moitra’s cash-for-query scandal which had put her on the mat.

Mamata is well aware of the fallout of the return of Modi in 2024 which may open the door for more investigation into scams in her government in West Bengal hence she is expected to adopt a flexible attitude to accommodate Congress.

In the same analogy, Kejriwal’s rise dates back to Anna Hazare's movement against corruption in the UPA government which was tactfully supported by RSS. Kejriwal always believed that the system can be changed only after attaining political power hence he continued his struggle and ambition to become CM of Delhi.

But Kejriwal’s contempt for Congress is a naked truth hence the latest action of CM to support Kharge’s name may be interpreted in a different manner. Kejriwal’s critics say that BJP has been successful in putting a question mark on the image of AAP after the liquor scam came into light and its three senior leaders are languishing in jail.

Delhi CM is apprehensive of Modi government’s intentions and he may land up in jail one fine morning which will be aimed at rendering the AAP as rudderless to win Lok Sabha seats and latter state assembly polls in the capital.

Experts say that compelling circumstances of survival might be responsible for the change of hearts and flexible approach being adopted by Mamata and Kejriwal though they may still preserve the hatred towards Congress. Now all eyes are on the seat sharing puzzle which will decide the fate of the INDIA Bloc in 2024.

Analysts opine that nothing is impossible in the game of politics hence a huff created by Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav may end up like a bubble which will be possible only if good sense prevails on every regional straps and Congress leaders take INDIA out of the cloud of mess and uncertainty to clinch the predominant issue of seat sharing leading to logical resolving of other alliance related problems.

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

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