Thursday, April 25, 2024

Rudderless ‘India’


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With Parliament polls nearing, the best electoral bet for the BJP and its NDA alliance today is Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. At the end of two terms in power, Modi remains popular. It is in selecting a matching face that the Opposition is groping in the dark. With several aspirants for the PM’s post, no consensus is possible. This was evident also in the last conclave of the INDIA grouping. A proposal to name Mallikarjun Kharge as the Opposition’s united face for the PM post won the backing of only 12 out of the 28 parties. For obvious reasons, the Congress itself is not enthused at this prospect. Those who have proposed Kharge’s name might not have done it with the best of intentions either. For, despite the high slot he holds, Kharge has not built a clout that can remotely match that of Modi. Keeping him as the mascot for the INDIA alliance might, in itself, undercut the cause against the BJP and Modi.
Seasoned strategist for the Opposition, Sharad Pawar, has come up with a view that it is not necessary to project a PM face now. He cites the case of Morarji Desai being made Prime Minister after the grand victory of the Janata Party against the Congress led by Indira Gandhi in the post-Emergency 1977 elections. What Pawar obviously seeks to hide is that it was a vote against Emergency, a time when people’s freedom was suspended and excesses were committed by the Congress government under the influence of those like the ham-handed Sanjay Gandhi. More importantly, the charge against the Congress and Indira Gandhi was led by a highly respectable figure like Jayaprakash Narayan from the Hindi belt of Bihar. He was the last among a generation of leaders inspired by an idealism that underpinned the Freedom movement. In the present age when leaders excel in manipulations, self-aggrandizement and corruption, there is no leader who matches the aura of a JP, who had shunned power and promoted people’s causes.
All said however, despite the scams of the past, the Congress party holds considerable public support. It emerged as the main rival to the BJP in three out of the five states that went to the polls and captured power in Telangana. Only those who have a vested interest to undercut the principal opposition party can afford to ignore this reality. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra through 12 major states, covering 3,500km in 150 days that concluded in January last, proved the mass base of the tricolour party. Yet, curiously, the regional satraps do not want the Congress and Rahul Gandhi in the forefront of the 2024 general election campaign.


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