By Nitya Chakraborty
The Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Lok Sabha on February 2 during the debate on President’s address, stands out as a major policy programme which has all the points for emerging as a common minimum programme for the political parties who are interested in fighting BJP unitedly in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Rahul has put forward his points with clarity which have commonality of views with both the regional non-BJP parties and the Left.
There are three main features of Rahul Gandhi’s speech. First the attack on the very concept of Hindutva and here he is unsparing in taking a position against the RSS and the Sangh Parivar. It is a fact that the Congress leader and the Gandhi scion has been very clear in his assertion that the BJP’s policies are leading to the creation of two India’s in all terms- Hindu versus other minorities, especially muslims, rich versus poor and the South versus North (Hindi speaking states).All the three features which he has mentioned are linked.
Significantly, Rahul has been talking of the link between Hindutva and chrony capitalism. This has been the refrain of the left parties CPI and the CPI(M) as also the CPI(ML) Liberation since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.The Left has been talking of neo-liberal-Hindutva agenda of the present regime which is talking of New India based on this dual sponsorship. This combination of religious fundamentalism of the majority community and the neo liberalism gives rise to authoritarianism in governance and semi fascist tendencies in the society. India has been the victim of this political virus in the recent years, apart from the pandemic covid.
The second important feature is Rahul’s exposition of the nature of economic crisis. He has delinked himself from the position of Manmohan Singh-Chidambaram line in the Congress Party and despite being an ardent techie himself, has not come out in support of the future growth of Indian economy based on digitalization. He focused on acute employment crisis as also the continuing distress in the rural areas. His emphasis was pro poor and on the liens of the policies which were recommended by the advisory council of Sonia Gandhi during UPA regime.
Rahul Gandhi has definitely positioned himself against the big corporates and this delinks himself from the economic policy line of Dr. Manmohan Singh-P Chidambaram in the Congress Party. The Congress is now fund starved and there are some suggestions that Rahul should change his anti-corporate tone, otherwise collection of funds for elections will be difficult. The BJP has got high backing from big corporates and the party also gets massive resources from overseas. Congress is now no match to BJP in terms of financial muscle power.
But Rahul should ignore this pressure, if he believes in what he is saying in public. Right now, BJP is getting huge funds because BJP is in power and due to the weakness of the opposition, there is an impression that the BJP will remain in power for long. Indian corporates towtow to power not to ideology. As soon as the power balance shifts in favour of the anti-BJP opposition, the funds flow from the corporates will also change its course. It is only on the basis of making the anti-BJP front stronger and sustainable that the Congress will be able to improve its financial muscle power. The Congress should tap lakhs of MSMEs which have been suffering due to the pro-big business policies of the Modi government. This sector, if properly cultivated will be the huge source of funds.
In the Congress Party these days, there is no ideological training programme. The party veterans have been reconciled to making efforts to remain in power or to get back to power where dethroned. There is demoralization in the ranks as the Party is out of power at the centre for long years and in many of the states for decades. Rahul has put out a strategy which has to be translated into concrete action programme at Party level also. How far, Rahul will be able to retain the core value of his vision, has to be seen. The Congress organizational elections including President, are due in September this year. Whether Rahul will give concrete shape to his vision by then, is a big question.
The third is Rahul’s emphasis on the strengthening of the concept of federalism which has got a big hit during BJP regime. Along with it are the near collapse of the institutions which have been granted autonomous character under the Indian constitution. This is the area which has caused concern among the non-BJP parties which are not friendly with the Congress and which are keeping distance from the Congress Party since the Congress is one of the major rivals in the state. Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrasekhar Rao and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik have been talking against BJP government on the issues of federalism and have become more critical compared to earlier days. Rahul has certainly laid a path of collaboration with them taking into view the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Rahul Gandhi has made special mention of the diversity of language, culture and customs in the states, especially mentioning of the wide differences between the Hindi speaking states and the southern states and underlined how by retaining that diversity, the Indian nation can prosper as the real union of states. His emphasis has received instant appreciation from the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin. Other regional Chief Ministers like K Chandrasekhar Rao, Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee must have also taken note of this. Of late Both KCR and Naveen have been critical of the centre on the issue of federalism and KCR’s observations against the Prime Minister this week, have been very stern. He has even hinted to meet other Chief Ministers for working on a programme to fight the centre on centre-state relations.
Coincidentally, on February 2 itself at the convention of Trinamool Congress workers in Kolkata, CM Mamata Banerjee while talking of her efforts to unite the non-Congress parties to fight against the BJP, mentioned that the TNC, despite differences, would like to have the Congress as an ally in the fight against the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections. He said that he would be campaigning in Uttar Pradesh in favour of SamajwadiParty.TMC policy is to support the non-BJP party which is best placed to defeat the BJP.
The state assembly elections nominations for five states are currently on. In states, the non BJP parties have been fighting against each other. There is no total alliance against the BJP due to political compulsions of the parties in their states. Once the results are out on March 10, the non-BJP parties can have a fair idea of their strengths and the trends of the people’s minds. That will be the time for the opposition to sit and discuss a foolproof strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha poll. A joint leadership of the regional parties and the Congress is essential to undertake the task of removing BJP from power in the coming Lok Sabha elections. (IPA Service)