Pre-requisites for Congress revival

Nitya Chakraborty

In the last few days, the Congress President Sonia Gandhi has been very active talking to a number of opposition leaders about the need for a common opposition candidate for the Presidential nomination. The election for the new President is due in July this year and the BJP has already contacted and garnered support from some of the non-NDA parties including YSR Congress. Sonia Gandhi as the leader of the largest opposition party, has to take immediate measures to consolidate the unity of the anti- BJP parties who are already supporting her move. Simultaneously, she has to initiate moves to ensure that some of the non-BJP parties who have been maintaining distance from the Congress led opposition, are persuaded to join the opposition camp to defeat the candidate of the BJP led NDA.
The task is complex and requires flexibility and accommodative approach on the part of the Congress leadership. Sonia Gandhi has to take full help of the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury and CPI MP D Raja in making a success of the opposition efforts. As of now, the BJP led NDA is not fully assured of the electoral majority in the Presidential elections if there is a contest. The incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee may be agreeable for a second term only if he is a consensus candidate. If that happens, the contest will not be there and all focus will be on the elections for the Vice- President in August this year and the BJP is determined to have its candidate as the next Vice-President.
The opposition has to be fully prepared to secure victory for its candidate in the Presidential elections, if there is a contest and it can be made possible only by making all possible efforts to bring together the parties which are still outside the present opposition camp.BJD and AIADMK have to be persuaded and their electoral numbers will make much contribution to the opposition strength against BJP. Apart, efforts will have to be made to garner the support of a few parties like Shiv Sena which are looking for ways to come out of the BJP orbit.
A beleaguered Congress has to reinvent its poll strategy by coming into understanding with the smaller parties in the state because in many seats, the small support base of the parties like BSP, CPI and CPI-M counts. The BJP has effectively made use of this strategy in some states including Uttar Pradesh with success. The Congress has to widen its appeal among the non-BJP masses and a broad front has to be formed including the members of the civic society. There is need for a total alliance of the non-Hindutva forces against the BJP. For the secular forces, the fight in full earnest should start with all vigour from the next round of state assembly elections in Himachal and Gujarat. If the Congress takes a domineering attitude in Himachal and Gujarat and does not agree to broaden the alliance against the BJP, the Party has little chance to improve its position. An active association with the pro-active anti-BJP forces will help the Congress electorally also.
The success of the Congress and its supporting allies in Himachal and Gujarat in this year’s assembly elections, can only set the pace for the Congress and opposition resurgence in the next round of state assembly elections in 2018.The ground reality is that in the coming round of state assembly elections, excepting Tripura, the Congress is the major party fighting the BJP in major states. If the Congress loses, the BJP gains and that is further cause of demoralization for the opposition and buoyancy for the saffrons. This makes it necessary for the Congress to be accommodative to take with the party in its battle all forces who are opposed to the BJP.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is most vehement these days in favour of a Congress led opposition front to fight the BJP both in the presidential elections and in the 2019 general elections. She is meeting Sonia Gandhi on May 16 for discussions on the road map of the opposition. Mamata has to be an important component of the anti- BJP front at national level. CPM may fight Mamata in West Bengal but on national plane, Trinamool and the Left have to collaborate to build a solid anti- BJP front along with other parties. At the last meeting of the central committee, the CPM avoided taking a concrete position on aligning with the Congress to form an anti- BJP alliance. In fact, the CC communiqué issued on April 20 did not mention the need for such a front. It is high time, the CPM leadership gives up its ambivalence and take a firm position for a national anti-BJP alliance with both the Congress and the Trinamool. Maintaining equidistance from the BJP and the Congress at this juncture as per the 2015 Party Congress document, will only help the BJP juggernaut. The Left can persuade the Congress to work for a common programme of action and the Congress should work out this in consultations with other parties.
Congress has to rejuvenate itself in terms of programme. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hijacked the pro-poor agenda of the Congress. It will require rare statesmanship and ingenuity for the present Congress leadership to prove their pro-poor credentials before the common masses. Only a programmatic vibrant Congress tuned to the demands of the new century can deal with the BJP challenge along with other non-BJP opposition parties. For the GOP of the country, the moment of truth has arrived. (IPA)

Wednesday, 17 May, 2017