It seems the Congress party is yet to come to terms with the shock defeat in Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections 2017. The party contested on 105 seats in the state, following hectic negotiations with ally Samajwadi Party. However, it could win only six. A national party of the stature of the Congress would not have imagined such a plight in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh. What was more shocking for the party was the fact that it couldn’t even win most of the seats in Rae Bareli and Amethi districts, which are considered to be the home turf of Congress president and vice-president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively.
Even as the Congress won Punjab, the party now sees Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a threat that needs to be dealt with immediately. More importantly, the party seems to be ready to go to any length to stop Modi. On Thursday, Congress leader and former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar pitched for a ‘mahagathbandhan’ (Grand Alliance) of like-minded parties, on the lines of Bihar, to check the saffron surge and rise and rise of PM Modi. Aiyar feels that Congress alone cannot beat BJP and, hence, partners are needed. Here are five arguments Aiyar made:
- “It is very clear that Congress cannot alone take on the BJP. It would be foolish to say that today Congress can alone defeat Modi. But one would be sensible to say that after such results we can win and will win in 2019 polls by fighting him unitedly by forging alliances.”
- “Forming alliance to take on Modi is the best way and the most assured way. However, it is not the only way. There will be difficulties on the way. It is not neccessary that every party should be in it. We must approach a mahagathbhandan (grand alliance) to the extent possible.”
- In a blog, Aiyar wrote: “What, therefore, is now required is a restoration of the spirit of 2004. Inclusive India lost in 2014 because the rainbow alliance of the decade 2004-2014 withered away. What could restore Inclusive India is for the UPA’s rainbow alliance to come together again.”
Notwithstanding Aiyar’s intentions to save the Congress, the ‘mahagathbandhan’ has the potential of being a perfect recipe for oblivion for party under current circumstances. Reasons: This is not 2004 and BJP leadership is strongest than ever. Moreover, Modi-Shah is not just only about talks but action. They not only constantly keep improving their political strategies but at the same time, the duo has their eyes fixed on development goals.
Secondly, what Aiyar is suggesting is pure politics. But politics without development is not going to work anymore. By grouping with fellow failed parties like the BSP and Samajwadi Party, the Congress would risk losing the little credibility it still enjoys.
Aiyar didn’t explicitly mention the name of Rahul Gandhi as the leader of a future Grand Alliance. But it is unlikely, the Congress would settle for anything less, even as Rahul has proved himself a failure many times.
It seems Aiyar’s view is guided by a view that caste and communal arithmetics can win elections at all times. This, when the party has been reduced to insignificance in UP is ridiculous.
In Bihar, the Grand Alliance was successful not because Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar cracked the perfect caste-communal arithmetics. The most crucial factor was the charismatic leadership and proven development record of Nitish Kumar. In UP also, people voted in the name of Modi. This is interestingly one of the most general truths about Indian politics that pundits have been failing to decode for ages in the country — People don’t vote for losers, but leader.
Before talking about Grand Alliance, Aiyar and Congress should first worry as to who will be the leader of such a group. For leadership, cannot be developed in a few days, or even a few years.
(With PTI inputs)