For Congress, a departure from the ‘big brother’ approach
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For Congress, a departure from the ‘big brother’ approach

Weakened after its worst-ever electoral defeat in the 2014 national elections and the setbacks in subsequent state polls, the Congress is not in a position to dictate terms to its potential allies.

Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: Oct 23, 2018 13:52 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,2019 lok sabha polls,P chidambaram
Former finance minister P Chidambaram’s remarks that the Congress has not declared Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is in tune with the party’s stand.(PTI)

Former finance minister P Chidambaram’s remarks that the Congress has not declared Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is in tune with the party’s stand.

Weakened after its worst-ever electoral defeat in the 2014 national elections and the setbacks in subsequent state polls, the Congress is not in a position to dictate terms to its potential allies. From ruling 17 states in 2013, the party is now in power in just Punjab and Puducherry. The Congress is a junior partner in the Janata Dal (Secular)-led government in Karnataka despite winning more seats than its ally.

Hence, the “big brother” attitude no longer works. A grand alliance against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 elections amid all the contradictions is not an easy task either. It could be achieved only through consensus. The onus of firming up a formidable alliance comprising different national and regional outfits ahead of the next general elections is completely on the Congress.

For his part, Gandhi has maintained that the issue of projecting a prime ministerial candidate is “divisive” that could derail the formation of the opposition’s grand alliance plan. He has suggested a two-stage process to deal with the issue. “Stage one is to get together to defeat the BJP and the second is to choose the leadership after the polls,” he said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on October 5.

A majority of the Opposition parties have backed the suggestion. But taking all of them on board on every contentious issue seems to be an onerous task for the Congress. For one, there are several claimants for the prime minister’s post and the division within the opposition camp is quite apparent.

Janata Congress Chhattisgarh chief Ajit Jogi has projected Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati as the prime ministerial candidate. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K Chandrasekhar Rao is said to be backing Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav for the post.

Trinamool Congress leaders say their party president and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is best suited to be the next prime minister. The Left, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the SP have echoed the Congress’ view that the issue could be settled after the elections like in 2004.

Being a national party with pan-India presence, the Congress has to work towards consensus building and also show its large-heartedness in ceding some political space to defeat the BJP. NCP chief Sharad Pawar has offered to mediate between the Congress and parties like Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, TRS in Telangana and Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi.

But so far, the Congress has failed in its efforts to stitch alliances at least in the three poll-bound states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the BSP is contesting on its own.

BSP chief Mayawati has said the Congress was two steps ahead of the BJP in the attempts to finish her party politically. She, however, praised United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for their honest intentions. She had even called the Congress “arrogant” and under an illusion that it will defeat the BJP on its own.

Delhi-based political analyst N Bhaskara Rao said it is too early to talk about the leadership issue. “They should not put the cart before the horse. They need to keep aside the contentious issues and focus more on evolving a common agenda.”

First Published: Oct 23, 2018 07:41 IST