Drifting wayward?

The INC badly needs to plug the gap of an absent narrative and show a matured demeanour to build Opposition unity against the BJP

Drifting wayward?

The toughest job in Indian politics today is to unify the opposition parties to face the ruling BJP. In the past to unify opposition parties, there were credible leaders with stature right from Jayaprakash Narayan, Jyoti Basu, to Harkishan Singh Surjeet to bring unity among the opposition parties. At present, there is no such credible leader with the stature as to the level of the old leaders to do that job. Every National and regional opposition party is struggling to manage its party for its survival. In such a way opposition political parties have been managed by the ruling establishment through its strategies. By this time the opposition parties could have brought new frameworks and new narratives to counter the narratives of the BJP with an attractive alternative programme of action to draw the attention of the people. But unfortunately, the opposition parties have not seriously worked for opposition unity and evolved alternative programmes. In their meetings, messages have been sent out by their leaders to the people that they are interested in and more specifically to stabilize their position and remove the PM and beyond they are not clear about their alternative programme, narratives, and strategies to capture power. At one point in time, OBC votes were with the congress and later with regional parties now with the BJP. The narratives developed by the BJP in 2014 continue. The narratives are “making India globally a recognized giant nation with a vibrant economy and without corruption”. The ruling party, through their scathing and vituperative attack on the opposition parties, made it clear that the opposition parties are corrupt and family-centric. This is the second narrative. They have started the narratives in 2014 and to date, it is being continued. Still, it is in vogue and it is not being countered aggressively. The opposition parties are still in a defensive and not in offensive mode. In such a way, the saffron party is shaping politics at present. To draw the attention and imagination of the voters, the opposition parties have to go a long way. Still, it is not clear who is going to take the initiative to form opposition unity. The absence of a credible leader to forge unity is a drawback for the opposition.

When India's shining campaign was on, the counter-narrative India striking was vibrant and drew the attention of the voters. Sonia Gandhi and Surjeet were at the forefront to bring unity in 2004 but are not on the scene today. Rahul Gandhi tries to bring narrative but in vain. When Rafale's narrative was shaped by him everyone was thinking it was just like Bofores. But unfortunately, it was only a solo voice and hence it has not worked. Now he has taken Adani's narrative and barring him his party leaders could not join in the campaign to communicate the narrative powerfully. The government kept the Development Agenda on the one hand and corruption on the other hand as powerful narratives and pursued them vigorously through their communication skills. BJP through its strategies lures more people from the Indian National Congress and other parties. BJP through EWS reservation has given a fine opportunity to galvanize the support of OBC towards the congress from the BJP but unfortunately, the party leaders could not make use of the opportunity. The regional parties who oppose the BJP government do not believe wholeheartedly in the Indian National Congress.

Fundamentally, there are differences between the Indian National Congress and the regional political parties. There is no sincere attempt on the part of the Indian National Congress to iron out the difference between them on the contentious issues. Hence, the Regional parties believe that weakening the Indian National Congress is good for them to elevate a weak leader either from the congress or from any regional party to become the Prime Minister if the opposition's arithmetic and chemistry work out in 2024. The aged leaders in the congress party also want the present status quo of the party to get at least 100 seats and by which no one from the Gandhi family to become the Prime Minister. That is why the party avoided the electoral process to constitute the CWC as the old leaders can easily get into it and do the old course of action in the party without strengthening it.

People who enjoyed power and damaged the party through their misdeeds have gone by accusing congress and its leaders. Now a set of people remain in congress not allowing congress to emerge as a vibrant alternative national party to counter the BJP. This scenario helped the BJP to remain on centre stage in Indian politics as the congress continued till 1967. The Indian National Congress is needed for India but it has to mend itself and chalk out an alternative path and course of action. What is going on in the party is contradictory to the views and approach of Rahul Gandhi. He made several attempts to change the course of politics in congress in vain. But on all the occasions he sailed alone. During the Bharat Jodo Yatra, single-handedly, he changed the image created by the BJP.

Indian National Congress has got huge supporters and well-wishers outside the party and they are all critics of the party but they are all supporters. Nobody to galvanize their support. The party considers them as opponents.

The party has to take a few initiatives to prepare for the election. One is a powerful narrative to counter the narratives of the PM and the Home Minister. The second broader framework has to be evolved to bring the regional parties under its fold to face the election with the trust of the congress. Third, a very comprehensive manifesto of the coalition parties touches on the life of all sections of society. Fourth, building a cadre to reach out to people at the micro level. If all these steps are taken the image of the opposition will draw the attention of the market and the resource support will be done to the opposition parties automatically without having a begging bowl. Who will do it? Nation and people expect the Indian National Congress to do. A sound opposition makes for a healthy democracy, isn't it?

The writer is a former Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute. Views expressed are personal

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