Wednesday, February 1, 2023
HomeOpinionCongress is the new 'vote-cutter' in Indian politics

Congress is the new ‘vote-cutter’ in Indian politics

Maximum harm to TMC contradicts Rahul Gandhi's claim of 'saving the idea of India'.

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Move over Asaduddin Owaisi. There is a bigger ‘vote-cutter’ in town. And it is the Indian National Congress — the party that calls itself the saviour of ‘Idea of India’. The Congress’ pre-poll alliance with the Left Front and the newly formed Indian Secular Front in West Bengal for the upcoming assembly election is the latest example of why it has no right to accuse Owaisi’s AIMIM of eating into anti-BJP votes.

Once there used to be a Mahagathbandhan, or Grand Alliance. And there was a time when Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee seemed like a leader who took everyone along in the 2019 Lok Sabha fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The famous pre-election photograph of all Mahagathbandhan leaders on stage with Banerjee in the middle of Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati was a telling example of how she had played a central role in this alliance.

But that was 2019. And a lot has changed since then.

Also read: State of Congress has reached such a low that it’s showing in its Assam, Bengal, Kerala plan

The Congress dissonance

The Congress has ironically become the party that is now causing maximum advantage to the BJP to cut the Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s legs in West Bengal by allying with Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front (ISF), whose secular credentials seem questionable.

That the Congress is trying too hard to live up to its name, in an election that seems already lost for them, is amply clear. But the fact that it is targeting maximum harm to the TMC in this process is not only surprising but unfortunate to the cause it always lays claim to: ‘saving the idea of India’, which Rahul Gandhi had spoken of while resigning as Congress president in July 2019.

Only calling yourself “amrai bikalpa” (we are the alternative) doesn’t change the messaging you’re sending across. The Congress’ central leadership is in shambles with the G-23 leaders sending a letter to Sonia Gandhi requesting a permanent and viable leadership. Then Ghulam Nabi Azad waxed eloquent about Modi being his “true self” and not “living in a bubble” like others, showing that the Congress has now broken up into many factions internally and there’s considerable resentment against the Gandhis. And now their poll strategy in different states has no head and tail and is nothing more than a shot in the dark.

Also read: What makes Modi’s BJP invincible? The cynicism that India is dead

Disturbing the Bengal campaign

The Congress coming together with the Left time and again is only proving what many have been claiming all along. That the party’s core leadership is now being advised by Leftists and that there’s nothing centrist about the Congress party anymore.Clearly, leaning towards the Left isn’t working out for the Congress. And now its alliance with the ISF of Abbas Siddiqui — a famous Muslim cleric in Bengal’s famous shrine Furfura Sharif who holds considerable sway in Birbhum, Burdwan, Hooghly, 24 South Parganas, 24 North Parganas and Howrah — will only help the BJP.

Notwithstanding Siddiqui’s polarising credentials, the fact is that alliance with his ISF to draw the Muslim vote away from the TMC is only giving rise to the religion pitch in Bengal. The BJP has tried every trick in the book to polarise the election — from invoking NRC-CAA to the “illegal” Bangladeshi immigrants, whom Amit Shah had once referred to as “termites”. But TMC’s poll strategist Prashant Kishor remained steadfast in keeping the campaign about development by raising the welfare schemes.

And it worked for the TMC because the BJP was seen changing its goalpost by jumping from Hindu vs Muslim agenda to “Pishi-Bhaipo Sarkar” — a family-run party — jibe, something that the party has effectively used to discredit the Congress.

Also read: Congress can remind voters it knows how to rule. But Rahul Gandhi must own UPA success first

Congress can see, just not its own actions

It’s not that the Congress is oblivious to the dangers of such electoral alliances and how they affect the larger battle. For the longest time, it has accused Asaduddin Owaisi of eating into ‘secular’ — or anti-BJP — votes whether it’s in Bengal or Bihar. The Congress seems to believe that any party, especially one led by a Muslim leader, that is not in alliance with it is helping the BJP. In fact, in the 2020 Bihar assembly election, it went as far to accuse Owaisi of “reverse radicalisation” of minorities.

Amusingly, it was Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary, president of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee, who warned other parties of Owaisi’s “vote-cutter” tactics. But now his party is doing exactly that. Owaisi’s AIMIM and Siddiqui’s ISF were supposed to form an alliance but the Congress beat Owaisi to it. Not only that, it refused to take AIMIM on board despite ISF’s stated wish. The Congress would seemingly go to any length to keep Owaisi and his party from growing — in this case, seeking to establish its presence in Bengal. And here it turns willingly blind to how its own actions might prove advantageous to the BJP.

The Bengal election isn’t only about the winner this time. It is more about whether the BJP, which had only three seats in the state assembly in 2016, can finally look to establish itself firmly. If the BJP wins 92-108 seats, as predicted by C-Voter exit poll, then West Bengal could not only have a BJP government in upcoming years, it will also advance towards having a comfortable majority in Rajya Sabha. And we all know what that can mean.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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  1. If any political party wins or loose, why the writer of this article got upset as a Political observer? At least , political observer should be more than happy if a vote bank, which has been exists since independence purely on hardcore religious basis and doing en mass voting for its own interest, now fragmenting because of alternates available.Also note that religious votebank can never ever be secular, so whatever is happening it is for betterment of society and country.

  2. The way press talks about secularism and all other communal and caste parties as if they are the saviors of india is amusing.

  3. TMC is much worse than Congress. The corruption and violence in W Bengal is out of control.
    Anyone rooting for them to win should listen to the new interview on the Wire. And the Wire is no BJP fan.

  4. It is difficult to understand why ZAINAB SIKANDER believes that TMC is a “secular” party, and that it should have the “birth right” to all Muslim votes. Does this exclusive “claim’ to the votes of a “block’s” members, who have been cuddled assiduously (as is believed by a sizable population) by Didi make her indeed a “secular” or “religion blind” politician? The fact that religious groups voting as a “block” in her favor itself make make her a ‘religious partisan” (in the perception of one and all of the state) – not exactly a “secular” person. Is it ZAINAB SIKANDER ‘s contention that “Non-secular” as a “description” cannot be applied to “minority’ groups themselves even if they act as vote-bank or blocks, and even when they are so large as to form close the one third of the total population? Obviously, religious fanaticism by the sizable (plus 30% of population) is Kosher, but the same of the majority group members of which cannot fail to watch the shenanigans of Didis and blatant acts of “appeasement’ of one specific block which gets to decide her political future. She forgets that BJP’s rise in WB is the widely expected reaction to the way DIDI has managed the religious issue in her state, in a region that has seen religious tension for ages, and even the partition of the erstwhile British -time Bengal does not seem seem to have ended the tension, something we see today in an ugly form from all sides.

  5. The ideology based politics gave away place to ‘Power at any cost’ politics in post Emergency General Elections for the first time and for the second time before 1989 General Elections, in our country.

    Now it is of no use to talk about electoral politics, based on principles.

  6. It hurts me that we no longer have any relevant parties. What do you think?after BJP leaves will we have the same aggressive infra/diplomacy/ reform prioritising party every again. For example look at Maharashtra sharad pawar almost cancelled the hyperloop. Because he did not belive that India could be first in anything or even in the states where Congress or non bjp party are the once with more unemployment . The point is that the opposition is not being as much optimistic or more spending on things other than wellfare of the people which causes the people to think that the opposition is in turn the one which does not have a plan and thus looses confidence in it . I love all the parties that make this amazing country possible and I hope that in future they all are at the same level of optimism as the BJP.

  7. That is what happens when everyone competes for the same shrinking pie. Unless someone comes up with a way to change the narrative from Hindu vs Muslims to genuine “Sabka Vikas” you will see this pattern repeat in other states like Bihar, UP, Delhi etc. Voting for Owaisi is no solution either Zainab because as long as the BJP is strong enough to gather 30%+ vote share, no vote “katua” will help!

  8. If TMC and Owaisi are keen giving direct fight to BJP in West Bengal, they should collaborate with left partiesand Congress, by giving them honourable number of seats. But this will make Mamta dependent on others. And she cannot do this. It is contarary to her nature and style. She is as much arrogant and aristcrate, as was Indira and now Modi. So the triangular contests are there to be.

  9. Expecting logical thinking from Rahul is a near impossibility . He has no idea of the consequences of his actions

  10. India will not own the narrative of working with leftist means secular

    We have seen enough of divide and rule politics and minority appeasement to lowest level by Congress.
    And parties like TMC has no moral grounds. They can go to any extend to rule a state

  11. The Congress has ironically become the party that is now causing maximum advantage to the BJP to cut the Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s legs in West Bengal by allying with Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front (ISF), whose secular credentials seem questionable.

    By your standards, when all your colleagues say that TMC has been pandering to the extreme elements in Muslim community, is it a secular party. Request you to see the 2005 video of Mamta Banerjee crying and screaming about the same issue but I guess any hypocrisy will do to beat BJP. No wonder.

    • You mean TMC has done good by deviding congress. Ha ha ha . … Every one is working for himself. BJP is also a cheater lead by liers. 15 lakh dunga, 35 ltr petrol kar doooongaaaa. HGa haha hhhhh.

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