Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
Since the 2019 debacle the Congress party is going down and down further without any semblance of recovery. Perhaps the notable successes were the chance it got to share power in Maharashtra with Siva Sena and NCP and keeping the Rajasthan government intact despite the big jolt given by its own leader Sachin Pilot and recent by poll victories in Himachal Pradesh. Barring those few instances of success it is all stories of failure across the country. It couldn’t challenge Left in Kerala and BJP in Assam in the 2021 elections and lost Pondicherry to NDA. During these two years the party couldn’t install a regular President nor did it hold the much delayed organizational elections in the states.
As 2022 approaches the party is into a more serious crisis without getting the chance to recover despite Narendra Modi’s vulnerable move of withdrawing the Farm Laws. The Congress party planned to project Rahul Gandhi’s as the champion campaigner against Farm Laws and made Modi to retreat. But all that went into thin air as the preparation of the opposition to the monsoon session of the parliament exposed the inherent weakness of the Congress leadership. The vital TMC missed the strategy session of opposition called by Sonia Gandhi. Mamata’s Delhi visit ended without meeting Sonia Gandhi has not gone unnoticed. Even its planned parliamentary disturbances got boomeranged as the government stood firm on the suspension of Rajya Sabha members and used its numerical strength to bulldoze the opposition to get the Farm Laws repealed without any discussion in Lok Sabha.
Modi government could do all that as the opposition itself showed the lack of unity among themselves through the disrespect they have showed to Congress called opposition meet for floor coordination. Its role as the main challenger to BJP is not acceptable to both TMC, AAP, the two main opposition parties, which are in serious expansion mode. The other regional parties are taking the same view and attacking the Congress top leadership thus the party becoming vulnerable for multi varied barbs thrown from all sides. The internal dissident group, which the high command derisively labelled as G23, is adding to the discomfort of the Congress with their own statements.
Perhaps the Congress has never faced such a crisis during the last near four decade coalition era. In the coalition politics it was always Congress which called the shots since it used be the party with highest number of seats in Lok Sabha and government formation always depended on that. Unfortunately the successive Modi waves hit Congress very hard in 2014, 2019 elections reducing its capacity to maneuver the other parties. The period of formation of UPA in 2004 and its commanding role in 2009 has vanished. The CPM leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet who cobbled support for UPA is no more and the Left parties themselves become irrelevant. The other regional party leader Chandrababu Naidu, who always claim to the king Maker in Delhi, himself in dumps in his own state of Andhra Pradesh. The newly emerged regional leaders like Mamata, Kejriwal, KCR, YS Jagan and established regional leaders like Mayawati and Akhilesh who are not ready to help the revival of Congress in their states the isolation of Congress is almost complete.
Questioning the existence of UPA by Mamata Banerjee and statement of “the leadership of Congress is not divine right of an individual” by Prashant Kishore, the political strategist of TMC, is a unbearable hit on Rahul Gandhi. The meet between Pawar and Mamata has obviously resolved not to have any alliance with Congress before the 2024 elections. This means Congress have to fight straight with BJP in not more than 200 seats. Even with an improbable strike rate of 30% it is difficult to win over 6o seats. This is what Mamata, Pawar combination estimated in their meet. Their estimation that Congress can’t improve beyond 2019 seats in Lok Sabha and they plan that one of the regional party should outnumber Congress. Mamta has 42 seats in Bengal and he as of now believes her winning seats are not less than 40. So she needs another 10-15 seats and that was her idea in TMC’s expansion into its other states. If her idea succeeds, then Mamata will be dictating terms to Sonia and her party.
The counter attack Mamata is now top priority of Congress but it still hesitant to formulate counter formula. Whether to expose Mamata with facts and figures or go back to Bengal street fights thus restricting her to Bengal and not venturing out to further poach on Congress leaders. Al ready smaller states like Meghalaya, Goa are poached. Those states may not count much in terms of Lok Sabha seats but it is certainly a psychological win for Mamata over Congress.
The other idea of Congress going back to appeasing Muslim by using the CAA and abrogation of Art. 370 may not succeed as the G23 leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has already said so. His statement in Jammu that Congress is in no position to restore Art. 370 is obvious confession of helplessness of Congress. If that party can’t stand on its promises made to Muslims that community may chose the regional party of their choice. Without committed vote bank the claim of Congress that “is the only party with pan-India 20% vote share in 2019 elections” may not hold in the argument while to have alliances.
With the current political scenario it can be assumed that the regional parties have taken over the slogan “Congress Mukth Bharat” originally coined by BJP but couldn’t achieve even after its seven year rule.
(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com)