Resurging UPA

In the wake of Modi losing his mojo, Rahul Gandhi is almost invisible from the political scenes in New Delhi because he is more depending upon BJP’s mistakes than to innovate own idea(s) to attract sulking Indian voters. He should think of bringing leaders like Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Jaganmohan Reddy etc. back into the grand old party with his wit and grit to keep the Indian National Congress single largest party in the Upper House even in 2019

BY ASIT MANOHAR

While the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to keep things in order through the much awaited reshuffle post-budget session, opposition is also engaging with one another to avoid any kind of entropy in their solidarity. Accepting that only Congress party can work as an adhesive to the regional parties fighting with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) by avoiding anti-BJP vote split as it happened in Bihar.

Left parties in West Bengal and Sharad Pawar of NCP in Maharashtra have already started sending fillers that they want to come under the UPA banner which they dumped earlier. DMK in Tamil Nadu has also come back to UPA and the alliance is going to contest upcoming assembly elections in the state in 2016. In Jammu and Kashmir also, PDP is repenting its decision of going with the BJP while National Conference is still sticking with the UPA and helped Congress party in sending its leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Aazad from the state.

ENTROPY IN NDA

On one hand, UPA is fast getting its shape while NDA is losing its cohesiveness which was its unique sale proposition (USP) in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP’s effort to create a consensus with allies on key issues for the budget session running into rough weather at a meeting is a glaring example of it. The incident is politically important because the NDA meet was attended by top guns of most parties, including BJP president Amit Shah, Sukhbir Badal of the Akali Dal and Chandrababu Naidu, chief of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Our close sources revealed that Punjab Deputy CM warned Shah citing, “Neither Muslims nor Christians are with the BJP. Why is the party now trying to alienate the Sikhs who have supported the BJP.”

Badal scion was indicating motor-mouth BJP leaders of BJP in the state who are vocal about BJP-Akali split these days. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut also asked Shah for taking NDA allies for granted in strong words, “BJP’s approach over the last 20 months has been to undermine its allies.” Even TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu had advice to offer at the meeting, saying the BJP needs to strengthen its allies. The BJP can ill-afford a set of unhappy partners as it braces for a renewed attack on multiple fronts from an opposition lining up its ammunition for the Budget Session.

PARLIAMENTARY CALCULUS

Coming back at the new UPA which is slowly taking shape, the grand old party has alliance with RJD-JDU in Bihar (40), DMK in Tamil Nadu (39), National Conference in J&K (6) while it can make alliance with NCP in Maharashtra (48) and left parties any day in West Bengal (42) it would like to. Its alliance with Left would automatically qualify the UPA for all 20 Kerala Lok Sabha seats in 2019 Lok Sabha. If we go by these states where its allies are having strong presence and can make an exemplary poll show by negating any kind of anti-BJP vote split, net Lok Sabha seats in this category is 156 where Congress can ensure repeat Bihar like results in 2019. Now there are states where Congress and BJP are in direct fight — Haryana (10), Himachal Pradesh (4), Uttarakhand (5), Madhya Pradesh (29), Chhattisgarh (11), Rajasthan (25), Gujrat (26), Goa (4) and Karnataka (28) — there are 142 Lok sabha seats at stake. Apart from this, there are states where Congress is principal opposition while BJP doesn’t have any presence — Telangana (17) and Odisha (21) — have 38 Lok Sabha seats.  Apart from this, there are states where both Congress and BJP have presence but there is third force which can change the result if aligns with any of them. Such states are Delhi (7), Punjab (13), Jharkhand (14), Assam (14) and Uttar Pradesh (80) which adds to 128 Lok Sabha seats.

Poll observers believe that it is the first group where alliance can become a fortune for Congress party. If it makes an alliance without much gain among the voters from current levels, out of 156 seats there UPA can expect to get above fifty percent of seats with strong and transferable alliance which it has already done in 2004 when odds were complete against the UPA. However, if we add all 20 Lok Sabha seats of Kerala, it can be in the range of 90-100 Lok Sabha seats for the UPA in first group of seats.

TEST FOR RAHUL MOJO

In second group of states where Congress and BJP are in direct fight, Congress has nothing to lose becasue it is already at its nadir and BJP is already at its pinnacle as the ‘party with difference’ has won most of seats falling in this group of states. So, technically, it’s BJP that will lose seats in this group of states and Congress will be major beneficiary. In the wake of Modi losing mojo and rising incumbency factor against Narendra Modi government and the state government, Congress can expect (in fact it has to) to win fifty percent seats may be more than that in these states and this is the group of states where Rahul Gandhi needs to enthuse party workers.

However, he must know that mere attacking Modi for whatever bad things taking place in either central or state government won’t work. He needs to come with a concrete idea on how to liven the grass root wire of the grand old party which Sonia Gandhi had done in 2004 by series of interpersonal communication either through road show or through Panchayat level meetings. What Rahul Gandhi is doing today is just imitation of Sonia Gandhi. He needs to coin idea to attract the Gen-X voters and first time voters in 2019 Lok Sabha elections with his innovative ideas on job creation and economic development.

DIFFERENT STROKE

Rahul can strike differently in the wake of new political combinations taking place in current situation. He can think of merging the regional parties that formed after splitting from the Congress party. In that case, NCP and Trinmool Congress can be asked to merge as it is need of the hour for both Congress and those former Congress satraps. As Sonia Gandhi left Prime Ministership for Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi can offer leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha post to Sharad Pawar and Congress party president post to Mamata Banerjee. It would make Congress party a formidable force in Maharashtra and West Bengal that elects 90 MPs in Lok Sabha. This move would increase grand old party’s numbers in current Lok Sabha to near 100. Apart from this, it would increase its numbers in the council of states, where the party is going to lose around 18-20 lawmakers till 2018. If NCP and Trinmool Congress merges which has possibility, Congress would be able to maintain its single largest party status in the upper house till the end of current Lok Sabha in 2019.

After the sudden demise of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti has been in catch-22 situation. Since, Mufti senior was once a Congress lawmaker, Rahul Gandhi can solve Mehbooba’s dilemma by offering her chief ministers’s post, provided she merges her party PDP with the grand old party. It may look beyond one’s imagination; however, it can be a blessing in disguise for Mehbooba Mufti. She neither wants to go for the mid-term elections nor is she in mood to align with BJP and further enhance the voter’s outburst against the PDP.

In a recent meet at his official residence in New Delhi, Rahul Gandhi had said, “If the mid-term poll takes place in Jammu and Kashmir, both Congress and national Conference would be the ultimate beneficiaries as the running coalition in the state is quite unpopular.” He went on to add that “Congress party is a bridge to peace in Jammu and Kashmir.” Now, it’s time for Rahul Gandhi to offer this bridge to PDP and sail the Congress boat in Jammu and Kashmir.

Rahul Gandhi accepts that Congress is a marginal player in Tamil Nadu. However, it is yet to see how strong Tamil Manila Congress is in Tamil Nadu which was revived in November 2014 by GK Vasan, son of GK Moopnar who originally founded Tamil manila Congress in 1996 to register his protest against aligning with corruption ridden AIADMK. However, if Team Rahul addresses GK Vasan’s issues and convinces him to come back to the party, it would give a positive message to his grass root level party workers in other states.

UTTAR PRADESH PUZZLE

Team Rahul can also think of initiating talks with Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Ajit Singh, son of late Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh. Chaudhary scion is in talks with the JDU leadership to merge his RLD before 2017 UP assembly elections. If we look at JDU’s presence in the state that has elected seven Prime Ministers, it would be JDU that would be more benefiting from the move than RLD. If RLD’s merges with Congress which he had done in early nineties also, he can expect to dent into the traditional forward and backward caste votes. Most importantly, it would help him re-align his Jat-Muslim combination that got diluted after the Meerut riots before 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

In such a scenario, it all depends upon Rahul Gandhi how he is going to deal with the Uttar Pradesh riddle. If JDU succeeds scoring over Ajit Singh, Nitish Kumar or Sharad Yadav would stake claims for not less than 15 seats in Western UP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections as they are already in UPA. They may ask Congress to leave some seats for JDU in the UP-Bihar border regions. So, it won’t be a wise on Congress part if they allow RLD-JDU merger without taking initiative to bring Ajit Singh into its fold.

Rahul Gandhi can’t shy away from the Uttar Pradesh riddle citing, “Grand alliance in UP is possible only when both Mulayam Singhjee and Mayawatijee is in that alliance and it looks possible to bring both of them in one alliance.” He should think of bringing at least one of them. Bringing either Samajwadi Party or Bahujan Samaj Party into the UPA directly would be enough to shatter the BJP ambitions of forming government into the state which is considered window to the New Delhi.

REVIVE ANDHRA PRIDE

In this whole exercise the grand old party must not forget its ‘Amdhra Pride’ because Andhra Pradesh is the state which has always stood with the Congress party when it was facing political cyclone. Congress always cheered its Andhra pride as the state remain loyal to Congress party when the emergency was lifted and majority of the grand old party was almost uprooted in the northern states. Similarly, when Sonia Gandhi was busy forming her rainbow alliance in 2004, it was Andhra Pradesh which responded to her efforts by electing YS Rajshekhar Reddy to replace N Chandrababy Naidy at CM office. The state has rejected Congress in 2014 after the mishandling of Telangana issue. However, the grand old party is still major opposition party in Telangana as both BJP and TDP have failed to make their presence felt in the state affairs post 2019 assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

Remember, Andhra Pradesh sends 25 lawmakers to the lower house and jaganmohan Reddy has some personal issues which can be addressed by giving him the chief Minister’s post which was the bone of contention for split in Andhra Congress. By bringing Jaganmohan Reddy with Congress, Team Rahul can negate any chances of split in anti-NDA votes in the state in 2019 state and parliamentary elections.

Hence, the grand old party central leadership have to convince Gandhi scion that there are some must to do works for the revival of Congress party in 2019 and upcoming assembly elections. Mere attacking Narendra Modi and hitting the headline won’t serve the cause.

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