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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 11, March 16, 2024

Anxiety in Modi Camp Over Rahul Yatra But Will He Take On BJP in Amethi | Faraz Ahmad

Friday 15 March 2024, by Faraz Ahmad


It is evident to the entire world, including the ruling Bharartiya Janata Party(BJP) and its super leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that Rahul Gandhi’s mass contact exercise across the breadth of India from North East to the West, including Gujarat, has caused a stir among a large section of population and infused a new spirit in the demoralised cadres of the Congress party.

Whether this will translate into votes and seats for Rahul’s Congress party is still in the realm of speculation. But Modi and BJP who remain remarkably alert and awake 24/7 all 365 days of the year to political stirrings and currents, are fully focussed to the possibilities arising out of any political fallout of Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra, and are paying undivided attention to contain the possible eventuality of these spontaneous turnouts at Rahul’s mass contacts, translating into votes which could add seats to the apparently tottering, dwarfing Opposition in front of the might of Modi and Modi brigade.

Towards that end Modi and Amit Shah who seemed to be dismissive of the regional and caste leaders, for the first two years of Modi’s second term in office post-2019, have been assiduously wooing even the apparently most politically marginalised entities like Chirag Paswan or renewing alliance with the Biju Janta Dal (BJD) of Naveen Patnaik ruling Odisha close to a quarter of century now, where in the absence of any Congress challenge the BJP had emerged as the main Opposition, with prospects of BJP ruling Odisha, once the Naveen spell breaks. But the exigency of the moment is such that Modi has dismissed for the time being the long-term interest of his party.

The success of part I of Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra last year from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir saw the coming together of disparate regional Opposition leaders to form the INDIA Bloc. It did translate into votes and resulted in Congress wresting from the BJP Himachal Pradesh and its southern bastion Karnataka, all the RSS/Modi barbs in BJP’s quiver notwithstanding. Rahul’s magic however failed to work in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, and Rajasthan, dashing all hopes of a Congress revival in the cowland on Rahul’s shoulders. Again in Telangana where the Congress had hardly any strong party organisation or leadership, he still sent strong enough message to the people to bring Congress to power for the first time after the creation of the new state.

There are two conclusions one can draw from this. One, that Rahul’s mass contact has had a positive effect on the people. But the Congress party with Rahul, Priyanka and Sonia have to do much more to produce any positive results in the Hindi heartland.

They have also to contend for the betrayals by the likes of Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Jayant Chaudhari, H.D. Deve Gowda and Mayawati. What is common between these leaders who do carry certain political weight in their area of influence? All of them, and not to forget Naveen Patnaik also, have two things in common. One that each one of them loudly and repeatedly proclaims him/herself secular. And yet each one of them has past history of embracing the BJP at the most crucial juncture when it matters most. Also, except for Naveen, almost all of them display on their chest the badge of being non or rather anti-elitist. It is another matter that Modi has set upon many or rather most of them and even others the CBI and Enforcement Directorate with tacit approval of or winking of the courts right up to the topmost. See for instance the case of denial of bail by the Supreme Court for a second time in less than six months to the jailed former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia by a bench also comprising of Justice Sanjiv Khanna who had commented in the first round of Sisodia’s bail petition in October last year that the ED case against Sisodia was so weak that it would fall flat in two questions of cross-examination. Yet, days later while rejecting the bail plea he mysteriously felt “somewhat’ compelled to reject the plea and now again four months later the revision petition before a larger bench also including him, has done the same.

And yet, Lalu Prasad despite suffering years of incarceration and slapping of patently false cases, has stood resolute against Sanghi terror. So has now Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader and now jailed former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren and even Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. And why omit Sharad Pawar and Udhav Thackeray whose party MLAs and tainted leaders were all whisked away to bring down the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of Udhav Thackeray to break the secular alliance in the cash rich state of Maharashtra. Modi, Amit Shah and their party are relentless in their effort, undoubtedly.

But that is why whatever is left of the INDIA Bloc, needs to work urgently and sagaciously. Now that the Yatra is coming to an end all the effort will go waste if they fail at the negotiating table. Surely the Congress needs to make its presence felt in Maharashtra. But what about Kerala? Isn’t the Left including the Communist Party of India (CPI) the most steadfast ally of the INDIA bloc? The Congress is willing to appease Mamata Banerjee, who deliberately sabotaged the alliance by choosing Muslim candidates for the two seats won by the Congress in 2019, ensuring a split in Muslim vote to gift these seats to the BJP. It is still trying to appease Mayawati who has chosen to filed only Muslim candidates in constituencies with significant Muslim presence to aid the BJP. But the Congress does not seem ready to part with Rahul’s 2019 seat Wayanad to accommodate CPI leader Annie Raja. On the other hand why is there so much speculation, arising out of Rahul and Priyanka’s apparent hesitation in retaining their family buroughs Amethi and Rae Bareli. Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav has given 17 seats to the Congress party which won only one of Sonia in Rae Bareli in 2019. The Congress stands a good chance of doing a 2004 in 2024 in UP, provided the leaders Rahul and Priyanka lead from the front. But if they flee Amethi and Rae Bareli for fear of a possible defeat the party cadres will be so badly demoralised the Congress may score a Zero in 2024.

There is hardly any time left. But is anyone listening?

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