By K Raveendran
There is little doubt in anybody’s mind that it is Congress that stands between Modi government and yet another term for it in 2024. But this role is best performed by the party in terms of omission rather than commission. If it has to be successful in fulfilling this national duty, which is to deny Modi another term because it will have disastrous consequences for the ‘idea of India, it has to adopt a self-effacing approach, and not allow the challenge to Modi to flounder on the inflated ego of the party leadership.
The harsh reality of life is that the Congress party’s national profile is not matched by a national presence. It is a part of national leaders without any local organisational strength. The very nature of Congress is such that it cannot survive long bouts of ‘power’-less existence. But unfortunately, that has been the case and the party structure at the grassroots level is nothing great to write home about. Congress today is at best a regional player, limited to pockets of influence, where a combination of factors, not necessarily the innate strength of the party, has helped to cling on to power. But the tragedy is that the party leadership has not reconciled to this reality and continues to behave like the central command of an all-India party.
In fact, there is no national party, in the true sense of the term, in India at present. The closest any party can come close to that claim is the BJP, but even that party does not have an all-India stature. It has made inroads in some new areas, but there are still large pockets where the saffron party has no meaningful presence at all and its existence depends purely on technical considerations, although the party has been exercising much greater control of national politics than warranted by its real strength on the ground, thanks to the militancy of its approaches as well as the ideology handed down to it from its parent organisations.
Precisely for this reason, a third term for the Modi government is the biggest threat that the country’s unity and secular values are facing and every political party with a genuine commitment to India as a nation has to keep this as the overriding consideration in their approach towards the 2024 election. Each party has to treat this as its national duty.
Despite the aggressive posturing by the centrist BJP, there is a new political equation developing in the country, under which there is a clear reassertion of regional aspirations. This has led to the re-emergence of regional political parties, which will be in a position to shape the destiny of the nation. This means that the narrative has shifted away from Delhi to regional capitals, when it comes to effectively challenging the saffron stranglehold.
Mamata Banerjee’s emphatic victory in Bengal and the stellar show put up by DMK in Tamil Nadu are manifestations of this resurgence. The growing disenchantment with Modi as the leader of a government that has lost its moorings has provided a golden opportunity for the regional parties to play their national role.
This has serious implications for the Congress party. A national alternative can no longer be Congress-centric and the party has to show the willingness to play second fiddle and not lead the orchestra. But Congress has to necessarily be a part of this challenge to Modi; it must not fritter away its energies in pursuit of its dream of leading such a national effort.
It is heartening that Mamata Banerjee, whose national ambitions have never been a secret, has envisaged a national coalition against BJP, read Modi, to include Congress. The informal initiatives currently under way, in search of such a national alliance, in the form of consultations by Mamata’s political strategist Prashant Kishor in Mumbai and lately Sharad Pawar in Delhi, all envisage a role for Congress. The only uncertainty is whether the party will play ball and not stand on its past glory. As they say in the market, past glory is no guarantee for present or future success.
Given the new situation prevailing in the country, the formula to create a credible alternative to BJP does not involve any rocket science. In the absence of national parties, it is not at all difficult to determine the dominant player in most states, where the parties have to take special care to avoid division of the anti-BJP votes. Luckily for the opposition parties, there are enough states to be apportioned among the major players, including Congress.
Opposition parties have been presented with a life-time opportunity to save the nation from certain disaster, if only the leaders are willing to subsume their personal ambitions in the larger cause of a national duty. (IPA Service)