If the Congress succeeds in reviving itself, as is the motto of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, it would certainly be in a position to pose a big challenge to the saffron party. The result in Himachal Pradesh tells a lot, observes Soroor Ahmed
As extraordinary situation demands extraordinary response, the Congress Party’s decision to give a walk-over to the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat and to some extent Aam Aadmi Party in Municipal Corporation election in Delhi seems to be a well-planned strategy. Even in Himachal Pradesh, where the party had won, the top brass largely remained away from the electioneering.
However, it would be too early to predict whether this policy of the Grand Old Party would really work or not.
It has become a customary pastime for the political commentators sitting in television studios to make cosmetic analysis of the emerging political scenario. Some of them even derided and ridiculed the 137-year-old party when the need of the hour was to delve deep and study its plan of action.
Needless to remind, the Congress gave a very tough fight to the BJP in 2017 Assembly election in Gujarat and won 77 seats – besides getting the support of two Independents. Rahul Gandhi left no stone unturned and pushed the BJP to the back to the wall and for the first time in last so many years the saffron party’s tally fell below 100 – to be precise, 99. But, like in several other states, Operation Kamal started and the Congress party’s figure fell down from 77 to 56.
Even the heroes of the Patidar movement, Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor crossed over to the BJP. Only young Dalit leader, Jignesh Mevani, who had won as Independent, remained with the Congress.
A year later, in the summer of 2018, the Congress returned to power by supporting the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka. In December the same year, the Congress snatched Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh from the BJP. That was the lowest point in eight years of the BJP rule and some political pundits even started fearing that Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance may be voted out of power in April-May 2019 parliamentary election.
But soon the state governments were brought down in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh by indulging in a unique type of horse-trading. Attempts were made to destabilise the government in Rajasthan. This phenomenon continued in Maharashtra this summer.
Taken aback by this totally unconventional gameplan of the BJP, the Congress decided to change the gear and instead of concentrating in state Assembly polls, its think-tank decided to rebuild the party from the bottom with the solo aim of defeating the BJP in the next Lok Sabha election.
So, when the party launched its 150 days long Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March) on September 7, it deliberately ignored Gujarat and even Himachal Pradesh. In the latter, it was quite confident of defeating the BJP without pressing into service the central leadership, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Only Priyanka addressed four election gatherings.
The Congress strategy worked in Himachal Pradesh where its rag-tag army of the state-level leaders and partymen decisively defeated the massive war-machine of the BJP which was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and assisted by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and hordes of other generals.
Those busy writing the obituary of Congress should take notice of the Himachal verdict. They should also pay attention to the fact that simply devoting too much time and energy in electioneering does not always work. Very often it backfires. This had happened in the Assembly election in West Bengal in summer of 2021. There too the top echelon of the BJP campaigned tirelessly even at the cost of risking the life of common people as the second wave of coronavirus was taking a huge toll. The BJP ended up with just 77 seats while the Trinamool Congress won 213. Throughout the campaign the BJP had claimed that it would bag 200 seats.
As Gujarat was the home turf of Modi and Shah and the saffron victory was a foregone conclusion, Rahul made just a brief appearance and did not spoil his energy in what can be termed as an exercise in futility. The Congress was also well aware that the presence of the Aam Aadmi Party was further going to eat into its vote bank. And this actually happened.
In the same way, there was no question of the Congress top brass taking part in the campaign for any municipal corporation poll. This new culture of making local bodies election a high-stake battle has been introduced by the BJP in the recent years.
Similarly, while the saffron party and the Aam Aadmi Party put in everything in the elections for civic bodies in Delhi, the Congress concentrated itself in a party rebuilding exercise. There was no question of its top brass wasting its resources in such elections without toning up the whole party network.
Without making this effort, it would be impossible to replace the strong BJP from the Centre. Actually, this work should have started much before.
The problem with the BJP is that it makes even a panchayat election in far off tiny state a prestigious battle. Whenever it wins, its rank and file pat their own back and praise the leadership of PM Modi to the sky. But when they lose in any of such polls, they are rendered speechless.
For example, till a few years back, very few people even in Delhi were aware as to who is in power in
the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. But when the BJP lost this time, it became big news.
By going overboard in celebrating the Gujarat victory over a non-existing team, the BJP is overlooking
some ground realities. The path ahead is not going to be so smooth.
If the Congress succeeds in reviving itself, as is the motto of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, it would certainly be in a position to pose a big challenge to the saffron party. The result in Himachal Pradesh tells a lot.