It’s time for political decisions
A little over two years after the 2019 elections, which delivered a resounding verdict in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and dealt yet another blow to the Congress, both the government and the Opposition have tough political choices to make. For Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, based on political considerations and governance requirements, expanding and reshuffling his council of ministers has become imperative. For the Congress, any further delay in deciding on the leadership question, in the party organisation as well as the parliamentary grouping in Lok Sabha, will only erode its already depleted political standing.
Events of the past year have shown that while the BJP’s national political hegemony is largely intact, it is increasingly facing questions about its governance capabilities in the backdrop of the pandemic. The party also has to get back to the political chessboard, with an eye on the Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat assembly elections in particular. The BJP is also keen to portray the National Democratic Alliance as a more inclusive platform to dispel the impression that the party is bereft of allies.
All these considerations will be weighing heavily on the PM. But given that there has been a buzz about cabinet expansion for weeks now, and this has generated uncertainty among sitting ministers as well as the larger political ecosystem, it would be prudent to act soon and infuse India’s governance apparatus with a new lease of energy.
For the Congress, the challenge is more acute. Sorting out organisational leadership is essential. The party president, Sonia Gandhi, wants to opt out of active politics. Rahul Gandhi is in charge in practice but not on paper. While there are murmurs that he is now willing to come back as party president, some in the Congress believe status quo can continue till next year. This would be a mistake, and irrespective of who the party chooses, an early decision will help. A more immediate concern is the appointment of the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, amid reports that the incumbent, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, is on his way out. The new leader must have the ability to work with other Opposition parties but also be able to command respect and effectively articulate the party’s position, in Parliament and outside. What is clear is that decisions taken by both the government and the Opposition in the next few weeks will have an impact on national politics in the run-up to 2024.
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