Monday, June 8, 2015

Time to put the house in order

Pankaj Sharma
8 June 2015, New Delhi

Amidst all the intra-party squabbles, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi could and should persuade state party units to present a united front.

Narendra Modi wants to hold onto the prime minister’s office for a minimum of ten years. To achieve this goal, Modi has a clear thought out plan; irrespective of whether it is right or wrong is another matter. However, does the Opposition have a clear plan to consolidate its captive power bases for the next five to ten years? Modi has begun to lose his sheen. In the meantime, is the Opposition working towards establishing a solid political foundation? Modi is a one man show and does not have a proper team of leaders. But how many opposition parties are more than just one-man shows? How many of them possess different rungs of leaders with the vision to manage India’s unique complexities?
Rahul Gandhi has certainly compelled his critics to change their opinion about him with what he has done after coming back from a 56-day sabbatical. The Congress is no longer the party it was a year or six months back. Apart from Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, however, are there any other leaders in the Congress party, who possess the selfless desire to give the party a strong base? From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, in the organisation’s fabric there are gaps through which the real strength of the Congress party drains out every day. Therefore, what possible measures can Rahul and Sonia Gandhiundertake, when they have leaders in the states, who are busy fighting with each other rather than countering the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre?

The Congress has only 44 members in the Lok Sabha. It has governments in only nine states. Despite its dwindling numbers, factionalism with various state Congress units continues unabated. Name any state and it is full of rivals trying to tear each other up. Sonia and Rahul have to play the role of fire-fighters almost every other day. Unless the leadership has a seasoned team of senior leader to manage conflicts in different states, Rahul’s nationwide tours and Sonia’s healing touches will not yield the required results. It is not enough to fight against Modi, the BJP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates only on television debates, Facebook and Twitter, when they are cleverly placing their men in all wings of government.

Rahul Gandhi’s strength lies in his relentless zeal towards transforming the Congress party. His weakness lies in a system that does not allow him free access to genuine issues facing honest individuals in the party. Rahul’s weakness lies in depending on a call center-like mechanical setup, which lacks an intermediary humanistic touch.

What about other opposition parties? The Janata Parivar is loose merger and will remain so in the near future. Only Sharad Yadav seems to have high hopes about the merger of the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janta Dal and the Samajwadi Party, led by Mulayam Singh Yadav. Nitish has no other option other than to go with the Congress in Bihar. So, he is moving on. However, for Mulayam’s brothers the party’s immovable assets in different districts of Uttar Pradesh carry far more weight than forming a merged front to counter BJP. Lalu is otherwise fearless, but his trusted lieutenant Prem Gupta’s NRI days and the alleged business involvement of his son in coal block scam continues to keep the RJD chief in check to expedite the merger process. If the rumours in the corridors of Raisina Hills hold any water, Prem Gupta has been advised to ensure that there is no merger before the Bihar elections, where the stakes for the BJP are very high. If he does not want any trouble for him and his son, Gupta may abide by these directives.

However, in the event of a merged Janata Parivar, is there a team, other than these leaders that can pull the train of different-sized bogies on the national track of opposition to Modi? The idea of a Janata Parivar could seem attractive, but the implementation of this merger at the grass root is not as simple. Age-old ambitions based on geographies and caste are hard to transform into a national cause without a sense of sacrifice. If we witness this transformation in the coming months, I, at least, will give Mulayam, Lalu and their families a standing ovation.

When you talk about the opposition, does a political analyst still take into consideration parties such as the Trinamool Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Biju Janata Dal, Aam Aadmi Party and the various Communist parties? However, parties like the Shiromani Akali Dal, Telugu Desam Party Telangana Rashtra Samithi, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Shiv Sena broadly support the Narendra Modi government. Karunanidhi’s DMK is counterproductive to any anti-BJP alliance that takes shape in future. As far as the BSP is concerned, only Mayawati knows which way the party’s pendulum will swing. Mamata and the Left parties do not see eye to eye on many issues. Therefore, all like-minded political outfits will need to carry a large heart and put in the necessary hard work required to give shape to a formidable opposition that can stop Modi from completing ten years in office.

 Narendra Modi’s BJP can be dislodged only by a Congress that has a democratic federal structure. The party needs a strong central leadership, which holds a personal equation with equally strong state-based units. An umbrella organisation headed by a presidium with Congress at the top could be another way to check the BJP juggernaut, which has the backup from the RSS and its sister organisations. The idea of launching a Maha-Congress should also be explored seriously. Modi is cautiously preparing the ground for an informal type of presidential system. The time has come to realise that dozens of combat battalions with different political flags will only cater to his strategy of keeping the two-thirds of the votes divided, which he could not even acquire during last summer’s elections. Those who do not want to throw India into a ten-year long dark tunnel must wake up.

Author is Editor and CEO of News Views India

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