Rahul Gandhi
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi | PTI
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The well-wishers of the opposition, or rather the ‘ill-wishers’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are either lamenting the delay in forging a strong mahagathbandhan or are advising the opposition.

Their advice is this: The opposition parties should give up their egos, forget the bitter past, overcome their prejudices towards each other, create a common minimum programme, sacrifice claims on the number of seats.

These well-wishers are, however, divided on their perception of Rahul Gandhi. Some of them say that he has come a long way, matured as a politician and is boldly confronting PM Modi. Also that Rahul Gandhi has shown an accommodative spirit in aligning with the JD(S) in Karnataka despite the Congress being a much larger party.

From Pratap Bhanu Mehta to Pritish Nandy, there is a growing appreciation of Rahul Gandhi’s emerging leadership among political analysts. Some others, however, still consider Rahul Gandhi to be a liability to the Congress and the opposition. The metropolitan elite is still, by and large, hostile to him, although not to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra yet. Indeed, the elite is more critical of Rahul Gandhi than even Modi. But both, pro and anti-Rahul advisers say that he is a major factor for any opposition front.


Also read: Rahul Gandhi is in danger of frittering away the advantage Modi govt gifted him


We are still not clear about what is going to emerge from the negotiations among the opposition parties. Various formulae have emerged — Federal Front, Third Front, Non-BJP-non-Congress Front, state-wise alliances, etc. Some argue that it is not necessary to announce the prime ministerial candidate in advance, and they can arrive at a consensus after the results.

But the fundamental question is: Why is there such disunity, if indeed all of them fear the return of Modi with more than 200/225 seats or with a simple or large majority? What prevents them from coming together? Their egos, competitive ambitions, political immaturity, prejudices, hatred towards each other, protection of their fiefdoms, or simply their behavioural stubbornness?

There are also some soft BJP supporters who keep a close watch on the opposition’s dialogues and divisions. Some columnists or apologists have gleefully argued that even if they come together, they will disintegrate after coming to power, if at all, and force a mid-term national election. And how that will bring back Modi as the only leader who can provide stability. They remind us of how Indira Gandhi came back in 1980 with a grand majority after the Janata Party coalition collapsed.

On the other hand, there are some RSS and even BJP supporters who want Modi to be “cut to size”, and yet do not want the opposition alliance to win. A weakened Modi could be kept in check or he could even be replaced, is their wish.

Although there is discontent against Modi’s autocratic style within the BJP, the disgruntled members do not have the guts to rebel. Neither frustrated L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, nor rebels like Yashwant Sinha or Arun Shourie could mobilise enough support from the party ranks.


Also read: Not opposition unity, but BJP’s critical mini-gathbandhans stole the thunder


As a consequence, it is not the BJP versus united or disunited opposition, but Modi versus the rest. (The rest includes some BJP leaders and some NDA partners). However, it is not adequately recognised that almost all the so-called opposition parties have often followed “anti-Congressism” as if it is an independent ideology.

The maverick Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party or Peoples Democratic Party in Kashmir, the DMK as well as the AIADMK, Samajwadi Party (SP) as well as all the socialists, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) or all the Republican Party factions, Telugu Desam as well as Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Janata Dal(S) and also Janata Dal(U), both the Communist parties, CPI and the CPM, the Biju Janata Dal and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Trinamool Congress and the Forward Block, the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar and the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir — all have a legacy of strident anti-Congressism. They too want a weak Congress or a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’. They resist the opposition formation that can help revive Congress.

To compare the anti-Congress alliances with anti-BJP alliances is not politically logical. All these parties have at one time or the other been in power with the BJP or in alliance with the BJP. While some of them were also in alliance with the Congress, their DNA has remained strongly anti-Congress.

But that brings us back to the original question: What really divides them? None of them oppose liberal economic policies and foreign capital (except the Communists, but mildly now), all of them profess socialism (even the BJP, which called itself Gandhian Socialists), all of them advocate secularism (even the BJP, which says they are genuinely secular and the Congress is pseudo-secular). Ideology is not the criterion now.


Also read: A national security election gives Rahul Gandhi the perfect excuse to lose


Political sociologists call disintegration or integration a structural phenomenon. Take the analogy globally. Why did Europe come together? And why are the 28 countries in Europe not able to stay together? Brexit led to speculation that the European Project is over. Political sociologists also argue that identity, ideology, economy, culture, history are some of the factors that lead to conflicts—within nations as well as within alliances. They apply this logic to even corporate houses. The survival instinct does not necessarily hold them together. Many large houses have disintegrated and perished.

Neither survival instinct nor ego defines the collective behaviour of people. There are umpteen examples which show that just as power unites, it also brings about disunity. Therefore, just because the opposition is facing an existential crisis, it does not mean that it will not self-destruct.

The author is a former editor and Congress member of Rajya Sabha.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. The difficulty with congress leadership is their inability to have a clear idea about the direction of their economic and forein policies which could look reassuring to the young electorate who have no love for the outdated socialist or liberal leftist ideas which were in currency before a few decades. The thought of nationalism is anathema to some of them. Some of them thought the BJP painted their party as anti Hindu and so to win back the trust of the Hindus they have to imitate the superficial acts of practicing Hindu segment. They know that old ideas of mixed economy have failed but cannot think of any alternative policy which can address the problems of today’s economic situations. So they simply find fault with every policy, action or statement of present government and show that the government has failed on all fronts. But people cannot be fooled by such negative propaganda.
    The leaders of opposition parties are fighting to retain their interests and so know that accepting the congress as their leader will be looked upon by the voters as accepting its propaganda as right and this will harm them in the elections. They are practical minded and their voter base is restricted to small regions with well defined local problems. The difficulty of the Mahagathbandhan is really the difficulty of having a common agenda. Defeating the ruler cannot be the sole agenda of a country unless the ruler is a tyrant despot. When a large section of the people respect his integrity that cannot be the agenda.
    If we look at what happens in UK democracy, which is our role model, the leader losing the election steps down and new leader with new ideas and discarding the baggage of the predecessors build the party afresh to make it appealing to the voters. In India either the leadership is so bankrupt or incapable of having any ability to analyse the causes of failure or the problems of the diversities become so complex that except making politically correct statements no serious discourse for thrashing out differences becomes possible.

  2. We may not want Congress-mukt Bharat but certainly Gandhi-parivar-mukt Bharat. The utility of this family to India’s polity is over. It no longer serves as a unifier in a divided non-BJP politics. It is a moot point how many of the regional parties would like to have Rahul Gandhi as prime minister. In their view, dominance of Congress is as bad as that of BJP. The only solution under the circumstances is that Rahul Gandhi should declare in advance that he is not a prime ministerial candidate. This could be a pre-condition for opposition unity.

  3. Congress wants a Congress Mukt Bharat. It is in self destructive mode. The Gandhi’s should have, if they really wanted Congress to survive, pulled out of the leadetship of the party. Who would like to after a retard like RaGa?

  4. Author has done a good job of presenting his views about political future of the Congress party and President Rahul Gandhi. Thanks are due to him for that.
    When we are discussing the possible scenario after the Lok Sabha election, I wish to ask this simple question: who is responsible for rise of Narendra Modi?
    In 1984 hundreds of Sikhs were mercilessly killed but even till date the Sikh families who lost their near and dear ones have not got justice. It is obvious that all those who were in power in Delhi and in the Centre during 1985 to 2001 did not make sincere efforts to bring to book those who killed the innocent Sikhs in 1984.
    In 2002 Godhra riots and post Godhra riots took place. Around two thousand innocent people, mostly Muslims, were killed during these riots. Not one Congress politician has shown moral courage to explain delay in prosecution of the guilty of 1984 Sikh killings. That is the truth.
    Therefore, let us not ask this question again: who gave opportunity to Narendra Modi to establish himself on national stage?

  5. My impression on reading this is that the writer, who is certainly NOT known to be favourably disposed towards either Modi or the BJP, is extremely disappointed and frustrated at the failure of the opposition in sealing the MGB, with Rahul Gandhi and his Congress as the new shining beacon of a resurgent UPA ( to say nothing of Congress itself, which certainly is itself very badly in NEED of resurgence). It also looks as if the writer has written off any chances of such a happening in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

  6. “The author is a former editor and Congress member of Rajya Sabha.” No wonder this author is bemoaning lack of support from the other opposition parties to his source of funds, Congress! He must learn to be at least slightly independent in thought and action, rather than be a courtier to the corrupt relics of the dynasty!

      • “BJP BALAKOT MID NIGHT FULL MOON PICNIC” Who sold they soul to Pakistani Terrorist. ADVANI, AV Bajpai, THE WHOLE BJP. Mazood was given grand farewell and a Long Holidays to the
        Mountains. HE CAME BACK to Meet his Old Master/ friend the BJP which made him leader of JEM. The 350 Kigs of RDz drooped from the SKY

        in PULWAMA, . EVEN the “BJP BALAKOPT MID NIGHT PICNIC” is Bollywood Movies APPROVED by J., Boltan and By DT. LIMITED , use

        DUMMY BOMBS by IAF. ABSOLUTELY NO CASUALITY IN PAKISTAN , PRE CONDITION. A “SHAM VICTORY” for Modiji to win Second Term. This time

        Modiji send Ajit to DT to MAKE A CASE OF “2 DAY WAR” on PAKISTAN. THE RADAR WAS TURNED OF by PAF allowing fake raider to drop they LOAD and RUN BACK. GOODA LUCK FEKOOO. GREAT WAR ZERO CASUALTIES. WHERE IS 300 KILLED TERRORIST IN BALAKOT. 200 Terrorist using Cell phone were Killed BJ TERROR SEEKING IAF.

        500 Millions Indian are actively using phone IT DOES NOT MEAN ALL ARE TERRORIST.

        IAF has Just done “Israel ENTEBBE MISSION” or even better USA NAVY SEAL just “GOT BIN LADIN” in ABBOTABAD. IAF IS CAPABLE OF DEEP PENETRATION DECLARE JuTLEY. 300 TERRORIST KILLED Declare TAKLOO Shah

        KINDLY LOOT AT THE SATILITTE PICTURE or even gert the Photo fromout SATLITTE of BALAKOT STILL INTACT MODIJI IT WAS FAKE BOMBING

  7. The Congress needs to do much more to make the opposition project succeed. It suffered a near death experience in 2014. At that point, it could not have envisioned that this could become a one term administration. Before R / M / C – Gujarat too was a close call – it had no kills to its credit. By contrast, the regional parties are credible forces on their turf. Absent their wholehearted cooperation and support, the Congress is in no position to come to power. 2. The Congress is very clear who should lead it; however, it cannot automatically extrapolate that to the coalition, should it come to power. To any reasonable observer, for the Congress to be ploughman’s lonely furrow looks delusional, almost suicidal. A few days remain for the Congress to get its act together.

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