By Nitya Chakraborty
Things are heating up in Indian politics as the BJP and the Sangh Parivar prepare for the next phase of assembly elections in the states within this yearend as also in 2023, and, eventually, tobe followed by the Lok Sabha polls in March-April 2024. After the last round of assembly elections resulting in BJP’s retaining power in four states, apprehensions were there that the Modi juggernaut had become invincible. However, the loss of the BJP in all the bypolls announced on April 16 indicates that still there is some hope for the opposition, provided there is proper strategy and the killer instinct of the leadership to take on the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Reports abound that the Shiv Sena will be shortly convening a meeting of the non-BJP chief ministers in Mumbai to discuss the issues concerning the use of the central agencies against the opposition leaders. This meeting will naturally go into the issue of broadbasing the unity of the non-BJP parties to fight the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections two years later. The time is short and the opposition parties will have to tread carefully, so that there is maximum possible areas of understanding among the parties who are honest in fighting the BJP model of Hindu Rashtra undermining the very basics of Indian constitution.
It is good that the Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has taken the initiative in response to the letter sent by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to the opposition leaders. Uddhav has been emerging as a mature leader of the anti-BJP alliance and it will be a productive exercise as the Shiv Sena supremo is respected now by both Mamata and Sonia Gandhi. Uddhav can invite all the opposition CMs including those belonging to the Congress. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is there to guide the upcoming conclave so that the alliance consists of the Congress as well as the other non-Congress, non-BJP parties.
Right now, the issue is how prepared is the Congress, the main national party challenging the BJP in the elections, and to what extent will it be in a position to rejuvenate itself to take on effectively the electoral challenge to the BJP in the states where it is the main party against the saffrons. The poll strategist Prashant Kishor is busy undertaking detailed talks with the Congress leaders led by Sonia Gandhi on a joint strategy to ensure the BJP’s defeat in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. PK’s strategy has not got green signal yet, but if it happens, that will be positive for the Congress Party.
There are some important elements in PK’s concept which minimise the areas of differences between the Congress and the regional parties and underline the importance for the Congress to focus on the seats where it is the number one or number two party of the opposition against the BJP. PK’s note advises the Congress leadership not to spread the resources of the GOP to the areas where there are little chance of success. The party is already cash-starved and it has to use its financial resources judiciously so that optimum results are obtained.
Let us take a look at the Congress’s present strength of the Lok Sabha. Out of its 53 members, 28 are from South India. There are 15 from Kerala, eight from Tamil Nadu, three from Telangana and one each from Karnataka and Puducherry. In Punjab, Congress has got eight members from Punjab, three from Assam and two each from Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.
In several states, the Congress has just one member. These include Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal, Goa and Meghalaya. This grim position has to be change drastically in favour of Congress if the party has to cross 100 seats in2024 polls. PK has to perform this job which is only possible by adopting an innovative strategy which will facilitate the polling of maximum number of anti-BJP votes in favour of the Congress Party. This requires drastic reorganisation of the party units at grassroots level, massive collection of resources and ensuring the minimum division of non-BJP votes on the polling day. This is a Herculean task but it is possible with the right strategy.
The Congress leadership may take into account some key factors. The Congress will lose in Kerala, Punjab and West Bengal in the coming Lok Sabha polls. In Kerala, it can lose even 7 to 8 seats out of the present15 and in Punjab, it will a fewseats as AAP spell will continue till the Lok Sabha elections. In Bengal, the Congress will lose both seats; similarly, the BJP too will lose. Trinamool is expected to go back to its old figure of 34.So all these possible losses in the present seats, will have to be compensated by a big win in the Hindi-speaking states as also in Gujarat which PK must be planning.
Congress is most vulnerable where it fights the BJP as a major challenger. In the northern states as also Gujarat, the Congress did very badly despite its initial success in the assembly elections. The party has got potential in increasing its Lok Sabha tally in MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Himachal, Jharkhand, Haryana and Uttarakhand. In these states, the Congress did badly in the 2019 elections compared to its effective strength. These are the states from where the GOP should plan to get maximum number of seats. How PK organises his poll strategy for the Congress to take on the BJP in the 2024 polls, will be known soon. (IPA Service)