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Not just SP/BSP, but Congress crossing 100 can defeat Modi. Its diffidence isn’t helping

Decisive phase of polls begins with Congress & BJP in direct fight in about 150 seats. Fighting by itself, Congress looks like a lonely hare caught in glare of headlights.

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Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath is the latest, and so far, the most senior Congress leader to indicate a target for his party in these general elections. The Congress, he said, echoing what the party’s data chief Praveen Chakravarty had said a while back, would triple its tally from 2014. Then, Kamal Nath also laid out his party’s central objective for 2019. This number, he said, would be enough to deny Narendra Modi a second term.

Not surprisingly, this drew immediate derision, even more from Congress supporters than the BJP’s. The party must be nuts to not even claim it is going to get enough numbers to form the new government. That this is being defeatist midway through the campaign. Further, that three times 44 is merely 132. If the Congress itself has limited its sights to 132, it would struggle to get past 100.

These objections are factually correct and politically fallacious. Here is how. Today, if the BJP reaches 200, it will definitely form the next government. The only way to stop it is to keep it well below 200.

Draw a ‘scissors’ graphic for BJP and Congress for 2019. If for the BJP, especially the Modi-Shah BJP, the minimum target is 200, it will watch the point where the two arms of the scissors intersect. That is, where the Congress reaches a mere 100. If the Congress reaches three figures, the BJP begins looking at a number below 200.

Every seat the Congress gets above 100 will keep pushing the Modi-Shah BJP lower in the dangerous sub-200 zone. Just to idiot-proof this so I am not misunderstood, I am not saying the Congress is going to get that many. My limited point is that at 100, Congress crosses a vital threshold.

And 132, thrice the 2014 tally, can quite likely deny Modi a second term. Remember that 132 is just a dozen below the number at which the Congress was able to stitch together UPA-1 in 2004. Once again, for heaven’s sake, I am not saying it will happen. My limited submission is, don’t scoff at 132.

Also read: It’s Modi vs 20 strong state leaders and there is no wave in the air

Review the numbers of 2014. Of the BJP’s 282 seats, as many as 167 came in constituencies where the Congress finished second. In other words, the Modi wave was mainly built around the BJP’s total destruction of the Congress, which came down from 206 to 44, almost all its losses going to the BJP. Another 38 were taken by the BJP from the SP and the BSP in Uttar Pradesh. If the Congress were to reach 100 now, it would have wrested about 60 back from the BJP. Given that BJP is expected to forfeit to the SP/BSP alliance what it took from the two in 2014, this could be decisive. Yet again, my third anticipatory bail application, I am not saying it is going to happen.

To understand how distant that 100-seat mark is, examine where the Congress party’s 44 came from. These were spread over 16 states. Only in one, Karnataka, did the Congress reach double figures, exactly 10. Next, were seven in Kerala.

The remaining 27 seats were scattered across 14 states, on what we might call the 1-2-3 basis. Each of these was won against the run of play, purely on the individual strength of the candidate.

Of the 167 seats where the Congress finished second to the BJP (out of 223 overall), in only 14 was the deficit less than 10 per cent of the votes cast for BJP. Turn the knife: The seats with a gap between 10 and 15 per cent were just 6. Any psephologist worth his calculator would tell you that a 10 per cent swing back is like reversing a landslide. As for the rest of the seats, the gap goes up to 75 per cent.

Let’s take a step back to see how this puts the party’s recent wins in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in perspective. It did succeed in reversing that 2014 landslide. So, it can attract that kind of voter-base in these states. For the party to get to that magical century mark, it must get at least 30 seats in these three states. Given its large lead in Chhattisgarh, the party can probably expect a robust number there. But, it would be way too optimistic to expect 25 seats in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. A Lok Sabha vote for or against Modi may not reflect the state assembly numbers.

That’s the state of play at the mid-point of this election. It is still open. While Uttar Pradesh has received most of the attention, the issue will finally be settled in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, Assam and other states where BJP and Congress come up directly against each other in nearly 150 seats.

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah know that the Congress is the only party that can deny them power. This answers the question asked often in this campaign: Why does Modi concentrate his attack on the Congress, even where the party isn’t his main rival? It is as important for him to keep the Congress below 100 as much as it is for his rivals to limit him below 200.

If 132, three times the 2014 tally, was the number to deny Modi a new term, it would have looked likely three months back. But how has Congress approached that target then on? Has it shown the focus, resolve, organisation and decisiveness to get there?

This brings us back to a late-night drive on an empty desert highway, on our way back home from the southern Haryana town of Dabwali, where we journalists had gone to cover a massive hooch tragedy in 1980. Some of us had taken a ride back with Devi Lal, then an opposition leader. Suddenly the driver jammed his brakes to avoid a hare caught in its headlights. But too late. The hare jumped one hesitant step right, one left, and was caught under the wheels.

Devi Lal told us a story. He said the same thing had happened once when he was driving with Partap Singh Kairon, the formidable chief minister of undivided Punjab who he used to assist as a political aide. He said, Kairon stopped the car too, and told him, Chaudhri, tu dekhiyo (you will see), this is what will happen to Nehru. You have to go left or right. Nobody can survive indecision.

Apply the same test to the Congress, now run by Nehru’s third generation descendants. From aligning with the BSP/SP in Uttar Pradesh to the AAP in Delhi, far from reaching out to Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and even KCR in Telangana and Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, to make common cause, whatever the price, disciplining its troops to back JD(S) candidates fully in Karnataka instead of fighting with them, and now Priyanka Gandhi’s to-be-or-not-to-be and finally it-was-never-to-be in Varanasi, what has Rahul’s Congress looked like? A hare caught in the glare of headlights.

If the excuse is that the party has to rebuild itself for the future, it’s a touching fantasy. Because, in politics, as in cricket, you do not ruin your first innings because you want to play the second better. The party should take the cue from Dr Manmohan Singh who, intervening in the Parliament debate on demonetisation, had said, invoking Maynard Keynes: In the long run, we are all dead. In this case, the risk is being run over even in the short run.

Also read: Why Rahul Gandhi’s Congress is in danger of morphing into a clueless NGO


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  1. Shekhar Gupta is paying back his masters in the Congress, for past services- and begins with the very first few paras: “The tone has been set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nobody can deny him that proud distinction — calling opponents anti-national, in cahoots with Pakistan, families on bail/halfway to jail and so on. ”

    Why have such a selective memory. Mr Gupta, when you strut around claiming to be some unbiased national commentator? Did you forget your Sonia Gandhi who went on to call Modi a murderer, when she did not have proof, while her husband and Congressmen were innocent babes that she has been defending in the 1984 case? The Congress used every trick in the book to paint Modi and the BJP villians and continue to do so, lying thtough their teeth, using caste, religion and their contacts in the press and media to pillory Modi and the BJP.

    It hurts when Modi pays them back with the same coin, does it? And then people like Shekhar Gupta, like all good men, come to the aid of the Italian Mafiosi’s banda.

    To such biased mediapersons, Mamata Banerjee is a “streetfighter” who the media glorified, but Modi and the BJP should not point out her party’s biases against Hindus and the terror her goons have created in Bengal?

  2. Happy to see a space where Congress sympathisers can get together and find some solace. Sad to see a talent like Mr Shekhar Gupta chosing to give into his personal biases and coming up with speculative opinions rather than impersonal and objective reporting and journalism.

    The proof of the pie is in eating. I look forward to the reactions of these very people once the results are out on May 23rd. Trust we all trust the democracy and shall respect the verdict, because right now it doesn’t look like that. Lots of holier (Congress) than thou (BJP) flickers

  3. Rahul is a lot smarter that people give him credit for. he saw what happened when congress teamaed-up with the left in WB – they both got beaten by BJP which mopped up the anti-TMC vote. He knows that congress does not do well on vote transfer – either way. So his strategy in UP is to divide the hindu vote. in delhi, he tried but AAP has its own agenda and we all know how volatile kejri can be at times. The strength of congress has always been its diversity and Rahul is doing a balancing act to maintain that – wish him good luck and hope for a Modi-mukth parliament in less than a month!!

  4. Mr Modi is at best a deceitful man. I have mentioned this earlier too. I also have a sense that the man knows that he is deceitful. Otherwise, why would you want to play this bechaara game all the time. I could not afford mangoes, I was a chaiwala and I washed my own clothes. Millions of Indians used to wash their own clothes and millions still continue to. What is the big deal? He is sitting in a fancy house paid for by the public money, does videos in fancy clothes, pretending to exercise and working all the time. Millions of Indians work in inhuman conditions to feed themselves or their families and that too for 18 hours. What is the big deal about Modi working for 18 hours in fancy offices and where he is fed well? He and his cronies (ministers and big businesses) have destroyed the economy and our society and I see the bhakts being blind and not able to see misery all around. It is not that the misery was not there, it has become worse and one does not need statistics to see that. One just need to keep track of one’s own senses – eyes, ears and nose – government offices stink the same way, public places carry the same amount of filth if not more. You can see unemployed young on roads and in office searching or job or doing low-quality work. Now the deceitful man tells us that he needs more time? What was that you gave Congress 50 years and give me 5? How else does one decide whether a man is a deceitful or not? you make false promises and keeping changing narratives and keep abusing others in a society that is one of the oldest civilisations of the world?

  5. 1. Shekhar Gupta has done an interesting analysis of the current political scenario. What I feel is that Congress leaders, who are never known for self-introspection, must find out why Congress is facing its existential crisis of sorts. It is in a bad situation, cornered by opponents who claim to be opposing BJP but they are actually wishing for defeat of Congress too in this year’s Lok Sabha election. 2. Senior Congress leaders know very well that theirs is a political party, established in nineteenth Century, in 1885 to be exact. But my question is this: do they recognize threats to the party and do they wish to know why their party finds itself in a situation in which it has to seek to support from regional parties (like RJD, NCP, DMK) whose leaders have a agenda of defeating BJP and whose survival is based on caste-based politics. 3. When Congress President and other leaders criticise PM Narendra Modi and NDA government for whatever reasons, they should not forget that credibility of Congress party as a national party would not be regained by merely saying that PM Narendra Modi has done injustice to people of this country or that Narendra Modi, his party BJP and its parent RSS are fascist organisations. 4. As pointed out by the author, wining 100 Lok Sabha seats is a big challenge for the Congress party. Why it is that Congress is facing such a situation? Fact is that there are very few leaders in the Congress party who wish to strengthen the organisational structure of the party? Everyone desires to hold office of profit.

  6. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist,Barnala (Punjab)

    This week’ s ” National Interest ” episode Shekhar Sahib from your pen is by and large in the best national interests ! Kudos to you for peeping through the stark realities but going near the ultimate goal getting non-plussed amazingly !

    I shall like to peruse this article in an objective and judicious fashion basing my arguments on facts and logics reflected in this story .In my humble opinion, two paragraphs of this write-up are the true soul and essence of the entire 2019 Lok Sabha Polls scenario. I shall like to reproduce for Mr.Gupta’s as well as viewers and commentators’s free, fair and factual understanding of the electoral arithmetic-chemistry !

    ” Review the numbers of 2014. Of the BJP’s 282 seats as many as 167 came in constituencies where
    the Congress finished second.” and the most significant one
    ” Narendra Modi and Amit Shah know that Congress is the only party that can deny them power.
    This answers the question asked often in this campaign : Why does Modi concentrate his attack on
    the Congress even where the party is not his main rival ?”

    These two paragraphs simply bear testimony to the fact that either Modi is too smart and sharp in the art of electoral politics or at best a “novice” in it ! To my mind the second novice factor applies and fits him the best ! During his five year stint as PM NaMo has been haunted very badly by Congress, Rahul, Sonia Gandhi that he has not been able to forget Congress-Rahul- Sonia Gandhi even for a second. When NaMo wishes to offer them publicity free of cost why should not they accept it. The voters too will be obliged to vote for the Congress party when NaMo has been bringing them into the lime light so consistently !

    Then your assertion in the sub-title that ” Congress looks like a lonely hare caught in glare of headlights.” applies more over NaMo because you just see NaMo looking like a lonely hare caught in glare of headlights in photos appearing in media during his April, 25 road show in Varanasi (none around him in the vehicle except his bodyguards) !

    Congress led by Rahul Gandhi is neither waffling at all nor found wanting in resolve because there is a silent “Undercurrent” in its favour Taking in to account various undercurrents and changed scenario because of the NaMo-Amit Shah duo’s political blunders, follies and lapses, no wonder Congress may touch 200 mark because NaMo and Shah are awfully scared and afraid only and only of Rahul-Sonia Gandhi’s Congress !

    Just to balance the story, you could not help using expressions like waffling , lack of resolve, lonely hare caught in glare of headlights etc. eventhen NaMo blind followers and devotees are not at ease with your views. It is so because TRUTH is always bitter !

    In this context, those innocent persons who died and many others who were subjected to untold miseries, woes, hardships during Demonetisation, will they -their families vote for NaMo ? Why should not they vote for Congress led by Rahul Gandhi who has been hammering this issue so soundly and frequently during his poll rallies ?

    It is just one blunder for example, there are countless to be mentioned in this regard ! A very silent but pleasant change is certainly in the offing to get rid of megalomaniac, authoritarian and totalitarian regime !

    Need of the hour to ponder over and introspect deeply over the scenario in totality !

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest,Barnala (Punjab)

  7. The process of electioneering helps unfolding the character and mettle of a leader. Indecisiveness appears to an important trait in Rahul Gandhi’s mindset. Now, if Rahul becomes PM his tenure is certain to be characterised by this very apparent trait.

    • A third category too should be considered :
      To this category belongs Mr Modi, keeping in mind Demonetization and GST. To the DECISIVE category would belong Sardar Patel and Indira Gandhi. About Rahul Gandhi I cannot say, because so far he hasn’t had a chance to showcase his abilities.

      Those who pitch for Narendra Modi must know that muddled thinking coupled with an EAGERNESS to project oneself as a DECISIVE man is a very dangerous combination. As we have seen in both the above mentioned cases – – DeMo and GST.

      In international terms, Narendra Modi is being used as a pawn due to his above mentioned weakness. Entire world is wary of Pakistan and China, and here is this man, Modi, geographically located between the two, who can be USED to “engage with the two negatively” if ever required. In other words, use India as a foil for both Pakistan and China through this EGOTIST by sufficiently pampering him. That’s why this talk about including India in NATO forces or something like that. That would obviously mean making India privy to top grade war machines, but it would also mean MAKING INDIA THE BATTLEFIELD if ever needed in future.

      Like in a game of chess, the big powers want to place Modi as a pawn, in a tactical position that suits them. For this they, including USA which otherwise is so sensitive to violation of human rights, are willing to look the other way when Modi-encouraged forces kill innocent and voiceless humans, like Muslims and Dalits. Otherwise, I just cannot imagine why there was no noise from US-based human rights groups who are very powerful to even mould their government’s thinking, when Akhalaq, Guna, and SO MANY other instances happened, including the one in which a Bangladeshi laborer was hacked to death and set afire. All this has been so-un-America-like, all because they find a mad man called Modi useful for their larger interests. I am sorry I have had to use the word “mad” for Mr Modi when he is STILL our prime minister, but for the honesty of my narrative I couldn’t think of any other but this unparliamentary reference. After 23 May, he will be like any of us commoners, so many will feel free to use this adjective for him – – affectionately, or out of derision. Believe it or not, even the first adjective can be used for him. Mr Modi is unwell! Phew! What a long mail!

  8. Resolve of Raul Gandhi lies in abusing Modi in every speech of his and more resolve from his courtiers like Jairam Ramesh in using the dynast’s twitter handle for pouring more gutter level abuse against Modi on a daily, hourly basis.
    Hacks like Shekhar Gupta and other darbari journalists make up for Raul’s lack of electoral acumen with their tedious commentary.
    The personal abuse of Modi and gut-wrenching hatred of Modi by the extended Gandhi family can only be explained by the 44 number. He did that to us!! And may do that to us again!!

  9. I Loved the idioms used in the article. Other than that, BJP is going to form Government. We like it or not. I wish BJP or NDA will make better decision this time.

  10. Shekhar Gupta being a devout Congress sycophant is dreaming a big number for congress. In reality, seeing the Modi tsunami, congress will most likely end up with less seats than in 2014. Shekhar Gupta has been consistently wrong and will be wrong again by miles this time. But blind hatred for BJP and unprofessional journalism is Shekhar Gupta’s old habit. He just can’t help himself.

  11. If the Congress was not certain – although I think that will happen, with ten or twenty seats to spare – of reaching three digits, it ought to have been more accommodative towards the allies. Shri Rahul Gandhi should have attended CM Mamata Banerjee’s rally in Calcutta, a graceful acknowledgement of the leading role she was playing in forging opposition unity. Her formula of one on one contests in as many seats as possible holds the key to 2019. In Maharashtra, after settling the number of seats, urging Shri Sharad Pawar to lead the joint campaign. In Karnataka, setting a combined target of 20 and creating the synergy with the JDS to make it happen. Not playing hardball with a callow Tejashwi Yadav in Bihar. Using Akhilesh Yadav as a wedge to get ten seats in UP; not ruining the Mahagatbandhan game even if that did not happen. Telling Ashok Gehlot – working mainly for his son in Jodhpur – Boss, Sachin Pilot will replace you on 24th May if you fail to deliver. What was the harm in sealing both Delhi and Haryana by tying up with AAP. Naveenbabu was right in his assessment when he said, He has to struggle a little more. At least so far, Ms Priyanka Gandhi is not proving to be a transformative figure.

  12. The Congress itself is in ICU and petenially needs medication by Lutyens Eco Chamber. Let it come out of the ICU first.

  13. The maturity of a major political party and its top leadership should be directly proportional to the maturity of an evolving democracy like India. However, in case of Congress, there is evidence/perception of inverse proportionality. While Modi’s 2014-15 report card may be open to debate, there is also this shadow of Gandhi family at the helm of GOP which may neutralise the incumbent’s disadvantage. But let’s wait and watch.

  14. The principal reason Congress will NOT form the next government, with whatever it can manage by way of numbers, is that Rahul very badly wants to occupy the PM’s chair. But, has neither the stomach for the job nor does he possess the ability and competence that it calls for. He wants to replicate and feel his grand mother’s and his mother’s glory of having reinvented a moribund Congress, but every action he has taken to achieve that has been fraught with uncertainty, and an extremely narrow minded, shortsighted, and totally misguided belief that attacking, mocking, abusing and ridiculing Modi is ALL that is needed to get there. He has shown NO propensity whatsoever other this during the run up to, and the actual campaign for, the 2019 General Elections. Numbers do not matter. Attitude does. And Rahul’s waffling attitude to politics is built on very NEGATIVE and shaky foundations.

  15. There seems to be utter confusion in Congress. Congress is giving all the leverages to BJP and playing on the strong points of BJP. Their campaign of “Chowidar Chor Hai” is not sticking. You can say any thing but certainly Modi is not corrupt. And this perception is well entrenched in the minds of people. Yesterday I heard Rahul telling that Modi is reading his speeches from teleprompters. This is foolish. It is well acknowledged that Modi is a great orator and questioning his oratory skills is declaring yourself a fool. . i feel BJP and Modi should be hit where they are weakest. But Rahul and party has not been able to do so till date. Latest is the Priyanka fiasco. Who has advised them to float the name of Priyanka and then cut a sorry figure. This is very demoralizing for Congress workers and voters. They have given a open field to Modi now. This action will have reverberations for Congress in many more seats. Seeing their actions in UP, Delhi etc, I am sure Congress is not interested in 2019 but looking for 2024 onward.

    • Excellently put. If only Rahul had not developed illusions of grandeur when the MGB theory was floated, naively assuming that the said MGB was only conceived to improve HIS, Rahul’s, prospects, and suddenly began fancying himself as PM, but concentrated on coming back with resurgent strength in 2024, Congress may have had some hopes of survival. Now? Every chance has been frittered away with amateurish handling.

  16. Shekhar is spot on in his analysis of indecisive nature of Congress leadership. ( Of course he writes brilliantly about anything except BJP or Modi). It Is surprising that despite having senior leaders like PC, Azad, Sibal, Ahmed Patel, there is such a poor strategizing from Congress, unless Rahul and team has shodowed them completely. 2004 numbers for Congress were a surprise but it is unlikely to repeat now, given Modi Shah focussed strategy and generally no anti incumbency factor with personal popularity of Modi still in tact. However, given the nature of our elections, it would be interesting to wait till 23rd May.

  17. When Congress had won 206, it’s tally in UP was only 12. So even if it does badly in UP this time, it won’t matter much to the Congress. Because a lot of UP seats will go to the gatthbandhan which eventually will ally with the Congress.

    Even if the Congress doesn’t do as good as 206 on its own, with the gatthbandhan alone their total tally will be not less than 225. Then there are Chandrababu Naidu, Stalin, and Pawar with his NC, and RJD in Bihar, etc etc…. This clique will easily cross 273, the halfway mark.

    So boss Shekhar, I don’t know whether you’ll be happy at this or not, it’s DEFINITELY curtains for the BJP. Long live God!

    • Dude really this is your prediction
      Okay just add one more thing how many seats do you think BJP will win ?
      For your analysis to be true BJP would win less than 150 and that’s ain’t gonna happen.

      • Dude UA, you need a calculator to do simple addition. All I’m saying is, congress with gatthbandhan and the rest of the gang will easily cross 273. Even those who are not counted in this C group, like Mamta, Navin etc will NEVER go with the BJP. They might support C group from outside. So they all will add their heft towards 273. All told, this gang may well cross even 300.

        BJP on its own, in my reckoning, will not cross even a 100. It’s allies are all lame horses. Akalis in Punjab and Ram Vilas etc are all lame horses. With Shiv Sena it may just about go 50-50 with C+NC in Maharashtra. Which is neither here nor there.

        Narendra Modi spread darkness over the helpless poor masses of this country. His own dark days are about to begin. This is called Divine Justice.

        • This is where you have allowed your personal bias cloud a logical analysis. The 200+ days of Congress are gone – for good. It has lost a major base in Andra, Telengana, Orissa, WB, UP, Delhi and NE. A bad alliance sticking job is another major drag. As Shekhar mentioned, 100+ should be their goal.
          It might still be able to get to 273 with EVERYONE else but it’s gonna be very tough. It’s still Modi’s election to lose.

          • I fully agree with you, but I had said 225 for C and gatthbandhan TOGETHER. And all the other names you mention yourself barring Andhra will join hands with C+GB.

            I still say the BJP will score sub-100. People who read and write on THE PRINT, those who watch TV debates and cooked up surveys, don’t even realize that a VAST vast majority of Indians is away from all such platforms. There the brass tacks reality counts. Which is: the poor are feeling MORE MISERABLE after Modi’s five years. And my sub-100 assertion is based on one line logic: ALL POOR PEOPLE THINK ALIKE.

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