By Sushil Kutty
‘Must see Pic! Priyanka with George Clooney’ carried by a news outlet sounds somewhat like ‘Must happen Event! Rahul is Prime Minister’. And Karnataka chief minister-designate of the Congress-JD(S) combine HD Kumaraswamy gives credence to the belief that the Gandhi family is the default page for a united Opposition. To those left of Centre, too, that is a natural point to gravitate to. The Gandhi family controls the narrative and to be recognized as a ‘Family wise-guy’ is coveted.
HDK gives importance to that. It looks like his first duty is to the Gandhi family. Makes sound politics, too, if 38 supported by 78 has to last. But if 35 of the 38 JD(S) MLAs chose to ‘merge’ with the Congress, HDK could be out in the Vidhan Soudha corridor counting fingers with several of the 10 digits missing.
So, for HDK to give his thumbs up to the Gandhi family is quite in order because to him, in his new avatar, the ‘high command’ is no longer father and former Prime Minister HD Devegowda but the mum-and-son at the Congress headquarters in Delhi. HDK will very soon become the outstanding and acknowledged frequent-flyer on the Bengaluru-Delhi sector.
News is that HDK’s current journey to Delhi was decided the minute after Yeddyurappa chickened out of the May 18 floor test. But what was to be a visit to get the blessings of the Family has now become a mission to put halt to a developing rift between the alliance partners over portfolio distribution. Siddaramaiah, Malikkarjun Kharge, DK Shivakumar and Parameswara are no lightweights to brook delay.
Portfolios are plums and potatoes and the fight is for the plums including the prized one of deputy chief-ministership. One source says the broad division of the spoils has been worked out – 28 ministerial berths for the Congress and 16 for the Janata Dal (S). But if 38 of the 38 JD(S) MLAs do not get to become ministers, they will be low hanging plums for the BJP to pick and just-below-the-ground tuber to dig.
HDK’s sojourn in Delhi and meetings with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi must have been dominated by the ‘ministerial’ issues. But they must also have discussed forging a national alliance to take on the BJP in 2019. This should have dawned on the JD(S) and the Congress pre-poll and not post-poll after losing to the BJP.
Significantly, even Mayawati, whose decision to lend “her vote-bank” to the Samajwadi Party defeated the BJP in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, was arraigned against the Congress in Karnataka. She sat with HDK and told Prannoy Roy she wanted to be PM and HDK seconded that. And Behen Mayawati happens to be the plum of opposition politicians in the MP-rich Uttar Pradesh.
Without saying, Opposition unity has still a long way to go, blighted as it is by individual personal ambitions. There are wheels within wheels in the Opposition. And when Rahul Gandhi says, “we will work with the Opposition to defeat the BJP”, he places himself and the Congress outside the pale of the “Opposition”, as if the Opposition is an alternate, which it might well be, if a Third Front is formed minus an overbearing Congress in the mix.
Entitlement is a malady that afflicts not just Rahul Gandhi but also Mayawati and Mamata. The former because she thinks being Dalit is a qualification as breaking glass ceilings is quite the goal for everyone including those who wouldn’t give an inch to the Dalit in galli and mohalla in the hinterland. As for Mamata, she believes she’s entitled because she’s already defeated the Congress more than once!
And if HDK and Chandrababu Naidu and K Chandrashekhar Rao harbour similar ambitions, along with old-warhorse Sharad Pawar, i.e., to become Prime Minister in a post-2019 poll scenario with the combined Opposition ousting the BJP and PM Modi, it wouldn’t be a surprise because ambition is an ‘andhar ki baat’ and cannot be wished away just because Rahul Gandhi claims first shot at rejection – after me the deluge!
In fact, HDK and Rahul Gandhi share a fundamental right denied to other Indians – the Right to Rule. Both are dynasts with a Prime Minister for a father, Rajiv Gandhi and HD Devegowda. The question is: Does HDK suffer from the ‘match thy father’ affliction? A rare disease limited only to members of the Nehru-Gandhi Family.
Come to think of it, the Gandhi family is no pushover. It is the G-string that holds the alliance’s figure together. They may not have states to show, except for Punjab and the Union Territory of Puducherry. But Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are states where the main challenge to the BJP is from the Congress.
No Mayawati. No Mamata in these states. Add Karnataka and Kerala and Rahul Gandhi can hold his own with these ambitious ladies. If they thought it will be a pallu-fight, ha! Rahul’s khadi-kurta will be there to give sari and salwar a fight to remember pre- and post-poll 2019. Also, there cannot be an Opposition without Rahul and the Congress in it so long as Smriti Irani lives to fight another day!
That being said, the opposition parties, if they together lay claim to form government at the Centre post-2019 general elections, it’ll be a bunch of losers joining hands a la Karnataka May 2018. And in Parliament it will be easier for Narendra Modi to do a Yeddyurappa than it was for Yeddyurappa to do a Vajpayee or, for that matter, a Devegowda.
The BJP’s desire for a Congress-mukt Bharat is the stuff of dreams-unfulfilled. In Karnataka, if the Congress-JD(S) combine is Jo Jeeta Woh Sikandar, the BJP is Alexander the Great forced to retreat after arriving at the Gates. It was one river too wide to wade or bridge. (IPA Service)