Naming Rahul Gandhi PM candidate

Sushil Kutty

Opposition unity is only skin deep. And Chandrababu Naidu’s ‘unite or perish’ warning may not register on Mamata Banerjee and the Left parties; Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ‘endorsement’ of ‘Modi for PM again’ indicates the Yadav vote-bank is divided. Akhilesh might have forgiven ‘Bua’ Mayawati, but Mulayam? It was he who got reputation tarnished and a big chunk of the Yadav still stand firm with the father.
Come to think of it, where’s opposition unity? Brigade Grounds in Kolkata presented the stage. And Mamata Banerjee strode it like to the stage born. But missing were Mayawati and Rahul Gandhi, both aspirants to the Prime Minister’s throne. Every opposition leader, from Farooq Abdullah to Tejaswi Yadav, gave a thumbs up to Mamata Didi while Mayawi sulked in Lucknow. Rahul Gandhi, got praise only from BJP rebel Shatrughan Sinha.
The other day, Sitaram Yechury and D Raja left the ‘opposition unity’ stage minutes before Mamata Banerjee set foot on it. ‘Kingmaker CBN’ sees the splinters in the opposition. It’s a case of too many chieftains. He himself would have been one but for the fact that he’s the weakest link and at the same time the most desperate for opposition unity. All opinion polls predict a TDP washout in GE 2019. If YSRC wins and Modi returns to power, outlawed CBI will enter Andhra Pradesh.
But CBN cannot control ambitions. The prime ministerial ambitions of people with massive egos. Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav, Rahul Gandhi… the list can only grow. None of these leaders are willing to give an inch pre-poll, think of what it will be like post-poll? Wily CBN’s survival depends on playing ‘kingmaker’ all over again. But what if the electorate, the 69 per cent who did not vote Modi in 2014, do not want a ‘kichdi’, even the prospect of a ‘kichdi’ to emerge out of the rubbles of a hung Parliament?
Everybody is talking of opposition parties’ unity? Is that what the anti-Modi electorate wants? Don’t forget, in a democracy governments are of the people, by the people and for the people. And from all indications, the 69 per cent electorate who did not vote Modi in 2014 are unified against Modi in 2019. Why cannot the 69 per cent get a clear choice – not in terms of a gathbandhan, mahagathbandhan or Federal Front – in terms of a ‘PM Face’ in 2019? 2014, the UPA did not present a ‘PM face’ to the 69 per cent to vote for. It lost. The mistake is being repeated in 2019.
Question is who could be that opposition face? Leave it to a mahagathbandhan, or a Federal Front, and the opposition, the Congress in particular, can kiss goodbye to ‘Goodbye Modi’! The need of the hour is a bold decision from a bold leader. Cometh the hour, cometh the man! And the best man cannot be any other than Rahul Gandhi under the circumstances. The Congress should without further ado name Rahul Gandhi ‘Prime Ministerial Candidate’ and be done with it.
Make it a direct fight between Modi and Gandhi. Even otherwise, the perception is that it is a direct face-off between Modi and Rahul. Especially, after Rafale-wrongs took wings. The rest of the opposition parties will have to fall in line, pre-poll or post-poll. Otherwise, the 69 per cent will decide for them. If CBN is serious about his ‘unite or perish’ warning, he should be persuading Mamata and Mayawati – Akhilesh Yadav and Kejriwal, Sharad Pawar and Devegowda – to back Rahul Gandhi ‘for Prime Minister.’
Politicians of the sort like Chandrababu Naidu thrive in ‘kichdi’ situations even if they have nothing numerical to offer to the ‘kichdi’. A lot has changed since the Karnataka assembly elections. The Congress has won Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and Mayawati and Akhilesh are apprehensive. Mamata Banerjee, too. Their ambitions cannot hold to ransom the majority of the electorate.  
Five years of Modi rule have further united the majority section of the electorate. They have had enough of BJP rule, enough of the cow vigilante and living under the yoke of ‘undeclared emergency’; enough of ‘education’ subverted and ‘history re-written.’ Forget Rafale and forget joblessness, the bottom-line is 69 per cent did not vote Modi/BJP in 2014. Of these, 24 per cent voted various opposition parties and 45 per cent stayed home, did not vote. Why?
Most likely because of a lack of an alternate ‘PM face’ to choose. Now is the time to correct that mistake. Does the Congress have the guts to take the bold decision and go it alone? For all purposes, Rahul Gandhi owns the Rafale issue. If the ‘Chowkidar’ is seen as ‘Chor’ today by vast numbers of voters, it is because of Rahul Gandhi. What’s more, both BJP and Modi see Rahul as prime bete noire, Prime Minister in waiting if it loses.
Dalit and Muslim vote-banks will consolidate behind Congress if the Congress throws modesty to the wind and declares to the 69 per cent that did not vote Modi in 2014 that Rahul Gandhi is its Prime Ministerial candidate. Priyanka Vadra Gandhi is making the right booth moves in Uttar Pradesh and Congress workers are a galvanized lot, not just in Uttar Pradesh but all over India. Give her a ‘PM face’ to go with the moves, and the ‘face’ will capture the booth. Don’t let Mulayam and Chandrababu decide prime ministers. One is for Modi, the other is for 'kichdi'. (IPA)

Monday, 25 February, 2019