WILL CONG FEEL THE CHANGE?

Priyanka-Rahul Team

By Oishee Mukherjee

How well will Priyanka Gandhi’s official entry into the Congress party help it as well as her brother Rahul as President of the Grand old party is a question doing the rounds. For one, her taking over General Secretary (East) of Uttar Pradesh has at least invoked enthusiasm among the party workers/cadres. Priyanka has been working in some parts of the State for quite some time, particularly her mother and brother’s constituency, but now she needs to emerge as a leader and ensure a substantial number of 42 seats in her territory comes into the Congress kitty.

However, there is a view that the Congress would be better served by moving beyond the family and that the induction of Priyanka will only push the Congress deeper into a dynastic mode. There is no question that this may appear a theoretical opposition but given the structure of the party and the way it is held together, the induction may help it. As in the case of Rahul, he was the secret weapon that was not drawn and he skulled around the perimeters of power before being given the responsibility. Similarly, Priyanka may have been drafted much earlier given her ability to command attention and inspire confidence within the rank and file. At a time when Congress and Rahul needed bolstering, having someone who could present herself with confidence and that would potentially make a difference.

It is believed that Priyanka may cut upper caste votes of the BJP and could get a substantial number of Muslim and dalit voters. Added to this, the large unemployment and underemployment in the country and the failure of Modi to provide 2 crore jobs, as promised in the 2014 elections, may motivate young voters to shift to the Congress. It also needs to be pointed out that the SP-BSP alliance would be greatly affected, possibly more than BJP, with Priyanka’s entry.

The more significant impact of Priyanka’s entry is likely to be within the party at the national level than in eastern U.P. If used as a campaigner nationally, as is generally believed, she would be able to provide substantial support to her brother in the hectic campaign that is normally seen. Rahul has emerged as an effective politician and with effective support from his sister, who has great resemblance with her grandmother Indira Gandhi, there are expectations of a definite change in fortune for the Congress.

The other question that people are also asking is whether the Congress would win enough seats so, along with its allies it could form the government at the Centre? But another thing that causes concern is that the mahagatbandhan of allies, some of whom were once foes, may lead to an unprincipled alliance. This may not bring credibility to the Congress unless it has the power to dictate i.e. the party has to get around 110 to 120 seats, which should not be difficult in the present circumstances. .

Political analysts feel that Priyanka can make a difference of around 6 per cent in U.P. along with another 7-8 traditional vote share of the Congress, which should add up to 12-13 per cent, which may be sufficient to win around 14-15 seats in U. P.

The BJP has rightly pointed out that the alliance is ‘unprincipled’ and has come together with the sole purpose of grabbing power. Moreover, some of the leaders of some of the parties have dubious distinction – say for example of Mayawati, the one and only leader of BSP or the son of Lalu Prasad Yadav of RJD, both of whom are allegedly seen as corrupt. There is another apprehension of these regional leaders asserting from time to time may make the coalition unstable.

Meanwhile, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee have shown interest in getting the top post at the Centre assuming the Opposition alliance comes to power. While BSP may not get more than 25 seats, the TMC may at best win around 30-32 seats all from Bengal. In such a scenario, it can easily be derived that bickering would start from who would head the government and then it may extend to various other matters.

In this connection, Modi has already raised the question, at a recent meeting, that the BJP alone would be able to offer a stable government at the Centre and the Opposition parties have come together for an ‘unprincipled’ alliance’. This cannot be totally ignored as stability depends on a stable administration as the chances of a ‘chaos’ cannot be ruled out if the Congress or any other national party is in a commanding position.

Recently one veteran journalist has raised the point of ‘vengeful federalism’ taking shape in the country, where the assertion of States’ rights has surfaced. This may aggravate after the election with every leader from each region and/or State, asserting the need of the State without thinking the need for balanced regional development.

The onus will obviously be with the Congress and Rahul, who has provided some sort of right leadership, indicating that he has the conviction to lead the government. But unfortunately some parties do not want him to do so as they fear that with him at the Centre, the Congress may again further consolidate its position in the coming years.

The Modi challenge, however, cannot be dismissed as apart from destroying institutions, curtailing the democratic spirit, the Rafale scam and playing the Hindu card, the government has performed quite well as regards development of physical infrastructure. The failure to plan the development process in the right direction keeping in the condition of stakeholders – like farmers, dalits and the rural youth – contributed to discontent among a major section of the electorate and has not augured well for his re-election.

Political analysts attribute his pro-rich attitude and aggressive Hindutva as the two major reasons for his loss of popularity. However, he has made some amends in the last one year but the centralised approach still remains. Overall, it is indeed distressing to note that in the year we are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi there is still lack of decentralisation, both political and economic.

Finally, it can very well be said that the Congress challenge as of now is quite formidable, more so with Rahul-Priyanka team, assisted with a young brigade, geared to look at the welfare of the poor and the neglected sections of society. The Muslims would obviously feel more comfortable with the Congress leading the Opposition alliance at the Centre. It is difficult to predict the post poll scenario but, sources point out, that if the BJP emerges as the largest party it could get support from Telengana Rashtra Samiti, YSR Congress and also possibly from the Biju Janata Dal. However, as the saying goes the political satraps will cross the bridge when they come to it. —INFA

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