By Sushil Kutty
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has taken ownership of the die cast by the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party combine and challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contest and win the Varanasi constituency against a united opposition candidate in the next elections. “He will lose,” Rahul declared in Karnataka, which goes to polls on May 12, and which the party has to retain to get through to the quarterfinals and the semi-finals.
The Congress heads the UPA. But the party has so far lacked innovative leadership. It was the SP and BSP which thought out of the box and won the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections. Now, Rahul wants to get into the box. He is banking on a united opposition to defeat Modi. Alone, the Congress stands little chance. So, the coattails to hang on. Rahul says the Congress-SP-BSP alliance will see the back of Modi. And where best to beat Modi than in Varanasi which is the PM”s Lok Sabha constituency.
At the same time, Rahul Gandhi is not too enthused by the possibility of a ‘Third Front’. Maybe that is because one of the loudest votaries of a Third Front is Mamata Banerjee, who is dead set against Rahul Gandhi taking the leadership role in a Third Front though she is quite OK with Rahul’s mom and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi who she deigned to meet on her recent trip to New Delhi while giving Rahul the miss.
Not too bothered with the snub, Rahul has been talking of ‘opposition unity’ to unseat the BJP-led Modi Government. He says the Congress knows how to engage and manage alliance partners despite their personal and regional differences. The remarkable thing about Rahul Gandhi is that he has always been immune to what other parties and leaders of those parties think of him, of his working style or his lack of a working style. Nothing could touch a raw nerve in him.
What’s more, the immunity extended to the public at large. Rahul Gandhi was not concerned of whether they called him “Pappu’ or ‘Tappu’, he soldiered on, stumbling and bumbling, as if he was never in a hurry, assured that his time will come. The best thing for Rahul Gandhi has been that his party got a long time to prepare itself for the coming of Rahul Gandhi, an inevitability that was as sure to happen as the sun’s rising and setting.
The Congress President says he doesn’t “see the BJP winning the next elections” and he senses that “in 2009 we’ll go back to the normal.” The clairvoyance envelopes Modi’s sure-shot defeat in Varanasi. Rahul Gandhi says with emphasis that the Modi Government is set for a “collapse not seen in many years.” He says Modi’s wheels have slowed down and it’s just a matter of a few months more before they come to a grinding halt.
“Frankly, I don’t see the BJP winning the next election… because there are two basic things, once opposition unity goes above a certain level; it becomes impossible to win elections. Now the opposition unity has gone to a point. It’s simple,” Rahul told media, which is another bunch of people aware of Rahul’s immunity to what people think of him, his working style, which is subject to ups and downs.
Obviously, he has been taking notes from what the media has been talking, discussing, writing about. “Where are they (the BJP) going to win seats?” he posed to the media, oblivious to the fact that the question could be asked of the Congress, too. “Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab. We will take it over. You are going to see a collapse of the style you haven’t seen in many years,” he prophesied.
In his new avatar, Rahul Gandhi expresses confidence in overcoming opposition disunity; that he knows the Congress has in it to carry people along because his party is not afflicted with “egos” and has a track record of spreading “love”, not fomenting “hate”. In keeping with the sentiment, party leaders sat on a ‘fast’ for communal harmony in New Delhi on Monday, April 9.
Claiming that he understands “UP politics”, Rahul Gandhi says when the SP, BSP and the Congress get together, it will be curtains for the BJP, which will “only win two seats, and that too with luck”. And Modi will be shown the door by the voters of Varanasi. Conceding that after the 2014 victory, Modi had a chance to do ‘good’ for the country, Rahul is incredulous that Modi frittered away the opportunity.
That being said the big question is who takes on Modi on a one on one in Varanasi in 2019? In 2014, Arvind Kejriwal mounted a challenge and failed. Will Rahul Gandhi follow up his challenge to Modi and face him in Varanasi in 2019? The corollary: Will Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati concede to Rahul contesting the Varanasi seat, back him? The point is whoever trounces Modi in Varanasi will carry the aura of the next Prime Minister of India in case a united opposition comes to power. Rahul Gandhi has said he “will be PM” but will he be allowed to be PM? The other “boy” in the ‘trimurti’, ‘Bhatija Akhilesh Yadav’ may fall in line. But it is hardly likely that ‘Bua Mayawati’ will. And, then, you’ve ‘Didi Mamata’ to reckon with. That is one too many even for the ‘Family’ to take on. Opposition unity is not a done deal yet. (IPA Service)