The issues that the opposition party will attack the government with include foreign policy, employment, Kashmir, personal freedom and farm crisis.
As the Narendra Modi government makes its way to the three-year mark, opposition Congress party is drawing up a report card of his failures.
But the issues they propose to highlight, according to a working draft, and the issues they may skirt around tells the story of the state of the 132-year old party that appears to be on the wane politically.
Unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s erratic and tense relationship with Pakistan as well as turbulence in university campuses are some of the sticks the Congress is likely to use to beat the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government with when it completes three years later this month. But the hot-button issue of violent cow-vigilantism has been pushed to the bottom of the list.
The three years of the BJP at the centre have been a dismal period for the Congress, both electorally and politically. Electorally, the party has lost far more elections than it has won and politically, it has failed to pack a punch as an opposition worth counting.
Now, as the Narendra Modi government is all set to complete its three years, the Congress is looking to assert some of its clout by coming up with an effective campaign to highlight his government’s failures.
According to senior members in the Congress, the party has prepared a broad draft of the areas it will focus on to target and question the government. While contentious issues like disturbances in universities, the turbulent equation with Pakistan and unrest in Jammu and Kashmir will be raised, this plan does not specifically include the extremely controversial issue of increasing violent cow vigilantism in the country by self-proclaimed ‘gau rakshaks’.
Party sources say while the plan will be finalised only by 15 May, this issue will perhaps form a part of the larger law enforcement narrative and there is unlikely to be a concerted effort to underline this growing form of vigilantism.
In the broad outline of attack that has been prepared so far, the Congress will highlight the government’s failures including increasing hostility in ties with neighbouring nations like Pakistan, China and Nepal, deteriorating internal security, slow economic growth and the inability to address the concerns of the youth, women, farmers, backwards/SCs/STs. It will also raise the lack of significant progress in relations with the United States and Russia.
The Congress will underline the “unrest” in university campuses which impact “personal freedoms” of the youth in a big way. This is prompted by the incidents in Hyderabad University, Jawaharlal nehru University and Ramjas College over the last three years, among others. While in the economic arena, the Congress will question the government’s role with respect the banking sector, absence of big-ticket investment, and stalled projects, it will also raise the issue of farmers’ suicide, lack of new jobs for the youth, the state of start-ups and skill India missions. The party, sources say, will also highlight the alleged dilution of forest rights of tribal communities and the lack of safety for women.
Interestingly, under the bracket of internal policy, Jammu and Kashmir as well as “lawlessness” find mention, the party has refrained from specifically referring to vigilantism by cow protection groups.
“This issue might be included within the law and order parameter itself but yes, we might not to take it up as a big-ticket issue on its own in the three year completion of this government. In fact, the whole issue of communalism and secularism might be skirted,” a party source said on the condition of anonymity.
This is not very surprising considering the Congress hasn’t raised the issue of violence by ‘gau rakshaks’ in a particularly focused manner so far.
Sources say the party is unsure about the extent to which it should push the issue of cow protection, because it is nervous about completely alienating its share of Hindu voters and allowing them to further consolidate behind the BJP.
“The three year campaign has to focus on policy issues rather than the politics of this government. We will also refrain from making direct attacks on the PM,” another source in the party said.
If the existing plan prepared by the party is stuck to, demonetisation might not be raised in a big way, given the party has deduced from the recently concluded assembly elections that the move has only ended up benefiting the BJP and Modi electorally and politically.
This campaign will be run through press conferences, distribution of pamphlets, advertisement and an active use of social media.
Ruhi Tewari is an Associate Editor with ThePrint. You can follow her on Twitter @RuhiTewari
Picture Courtesy: inc.in