Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan. So it would be safer to take a call on the Congress’ decision to limit its pre-election alliances with regional parties to the state-level after we know how the party fares in the polls later this year. But unlike commentators, the actual players in the 2009 general elections do not have the luxury of hindsight. What they do have are past cases and current trends to show the way — and new radical ideas, one of which we will come to a bit later.
The Congress may sound as if it is still in denial about the reality that is the coalition landscape, but as Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi pointed out at Thursday’s Congress Working Committee meeting, the party really doesn’t have a choice — and, more importantly, the party is well aware that it doesn’t have a choice but to hook up with regional allies to make the numbers add up. But at the same time, sticking to only pre-poll state-level alliances is something that the Congress can afford. Like the BJP, it has the advantage of reaching out to regional parties when the ‘number game’ starts. Regional parties, on the other hand, have only three options: the Congress, the BJP and the never-say-die Third Front.
Coming to the more interesting and forward-looking point made by Mr Gandhi, his suggestion that the Congress takes to “grooming and projecting deserving young Congress leaders” in the run-up to the elections makes excellent sense. While noises have been made in the past about the need to inject a younger leadership the Grand Old Party, the implementation of such an ‘idea’ has been in dribbles. Mr Gandhi’s idea of earmarking 30 per cent seats where the party has repeatedly lost is as radical as it is welcome for a party that not only needs a makeover but also needs to show that makeover.
The Congress has little to lose and much to gain by implementing ‘Proposition 30 per cent’. Much more than theorising at this stage about how to coalesce with partners nationally, the Congress should, for its own sake, take young Mr Gandhi’s suggestion very seriously.