By Nitya Chakraborty
The Congress plenary session in Raipur which began on February 24 has to perform the historic task to frame its policy of alliance with the non-BJP opposition parties which are ready to take on the saffrons in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress is the biggest opposition party in the country to take on the BJP and it has the largest responsibility to formulate a strategy at the Raipur session which facilitates the maximum possible understanding among the anti-BJP parties before and after the 2024 elections.
The Congress leadership has to differentiate the electoral strategy in the coming assembly elections from the policy to be followed in the Lok Sabha elections. Every regional political party has its own turf in its state and the ruling regional parties like Trinamool Congress of West Bengal and BRS of Telangana will be following their own course in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress will have to reconcile with this political reality keeping the way open for post poll alliance after the 2024 Lok Sabha results are out.
In fact, the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi put the issue of relationship with the opposition in correct perspective in his press meet on December 30 in the course of Bharat Jodo Yatra when he urged the opposition parties to come together to present an alternative vision to the BJP and said that it was upto the Congress to ensure that they feel ‘comfortable’ and respected. This is the right way to look at the prospects of opposition unity’ Raipur plenary has to work on the 2024 strategy based on what Rahul said about two months ago.
The problem for the Congress is that despite being out of power at the centre for nearly nine years and its strength declining since the coming to power of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, the party still thinks that it is a natural party of governance. Whenever it is in any upbeat mood following some positive developments, the party leaders get the feeling that they are coming to power on their own.
This was evident when the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said at an election meeting in Nagaland on February 21 that the opposition front led by the Congress would come to power after the 2024 elections defeating the BJP. Where was the need for saying when there is no understanding on the Prime Minister face of the opposition to take on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Congress at the Raipur session can certainly project Rahul Gandhi as the PM face of the Congress Party if it wants, but not the leader of the so called Congress led opposition. It will be in the best interests of the Congress and the opposition unity not to declare in a hurry the Congress as the leader of the opposition front to take on BJP.
Right now, following the success of Bharat Jodo Yatra and the increased acceptability of Rahul Gandhi as a potential national leader to challenge the PM Narendra Modi, the Congress is far more advantageously placed among the opposition parties for leadership. But the Congress, in the interests of broader opposition unity against the BJP, should not insist on that now as Kharge is doing. The Plenary must take a firm decision on this protecting the interests of the Congress as also ensuring that those who are opposed to both the Congress and the BJP are brought into the non-BJP coalition in the case of a hung Lok Sabha after 2024 polls.
Just on the eve of the Raipur plenary, Congress MP Manickam Tagore invited a total of 16 political parties to come together under the Congress captainship ahead of the 2024 elections to defeat BJP. The MP is close to the high command, and if this is any indication that the Congress leadership may be interested to form a front like the earlier UPA before the Lok sabha polls. The list of the MP excludes, the TMC, BRS, AAP, the Left parties, who are already out of the UPA. It will be better if the Congress starts negotiations with the other parties after the plenary based on an alternative vision.
If such a front is formed, Rahul Gandhi can be a leader of this, but not the whole opposition. This front can fight the elections under the Congress leadership and after the polls can have understanding with the other political parties outside the front including TMC, AAP and BRS. Other two parties the YSRCP of Andhra Pradesh and BJD of Odisha can also be approached. The left parties are already committed to a non-BJP government. So the left support to such a non-BJP government is guaranteed.
The moot issue is that the Congress has to establish its credentials as the winning party by defeating the BJP in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in the coming assembly polls this year. Then automatically, it will be eligible for the leadership of the opposition. The plenary has to focus fully on this winning formula for the assembly polls and that will catapult the Congress Party close to leadership. Any misstep at Raipur is sure to ensure another term for Narendra Modi in 2024 polls. (IPA Service)