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Dear Rahul,  

2024 general elections are just under 18 months away, and you have definitely succeeded in setting the narrative of peace and love among people through your Bharat Jodo Yatra. Though you still need to work on your public speaking skills, your message is being well received by the people of this country. Also this yatra has announced your arrival as a serious politician. But can you still be considered as a leader? I doubt it. This letter is not about criticizing you or putting you down, but about clearly defining a beautiful role that you can play in shaping up the future of this country. Talks are already widespread in the media about BJY being an instrument to stitch up an opposition alliance for 2024. It is indeed a real possibility but not in the traditional set up of a mahagathbandhan with seat sharing arrangements for alliance partners in every state. We need to take a fresh look at this, and I want to give it the name, Federal Front Alliance!

Here’s a quick set of statistics to start with…

(Source: https://loksabha.nic.in/members/PartyWiseStatisticalList.aspx )

First let us consider some of the major states that contribute a bulk of seats to the Lok Sabha  along with the seats contributed in 2019 by it’s incumbent governing regional parties.

Tamil Nadu (39) – DMK  (2019 – 24)

Andhra Pradesh (25) – YSR Congress (2019 – 22)

Telangana (17) – BRS – (2019 – 9)

Odisha (21) – BJD (2019 – 12)

Bihar (40) – JDU & RJD (2019 – JDU (16) RJD(0))

Jharkhand (14) – JMM (2019 – 1)

West Bengal (42) – TMC (2019 – 23)

Punjab (13) – AAP (2019 – 1)

Delhi (7) – AAP (2019 – 0)

It is interesting to note that none of these are alliance partners with the BJP as on today! Also, the total tally of Congress in all these states were a mere 24. The dark horse in this cluster is AAP.

(This is Group 1)

You may think that these 8 states contributed to almost 50% of Congress’ national tally and hence are very important for you in 2024. But you are mistaken, because all you did was to weaken the principal contenders in these states and spread yourself too thin in the process.

Now let’s focus on large states where congress is NOT the principal opposition party. 

Uttar Pradesh (80) – SP (2019 – 5). This is quite tricky, because SP didn’t fare well at all in 2019, but Congress fared worse. However, looking at SP’s performance in the state elections, there is a good chance that they will turn in good numbers for the 2024 Lok sabha.

Maharashtra (48) – Shivsena (Uddhav Thackeray Group) (2019 – 18) & NCP (2019 – 4).

I have credited Shivsena (UT) with all the seats of the united Shivsena in 2019 since I believe the Eknath Shinde faction will surely face the wrath of the people in the upcoming elections for their treachery

(This is Group 2)

 Add to this the congress ruled states:

Rajasthan (25), Chhattisgarh (11) & Himachal Pradesh (4). In these states, Congress fared poorly in 2019 and got only 2 seats out of 40! It is expected to improve in 2024 as the people of these states have entrusted you with the state government there.

 (This is Group 3)

 And finally let’s go to the states where Congress is the principal opposition party:

Madhya Pradesh (29), Gujarat (26), Karnataka (28), Kerala (20), Assam (14), Haryana (10), Uttarakhand (5)

In these states Congress scored a paltry 20 seats, which is a very serious concern for you as these are your traditional strongholds.

 (This is Group 4)

For this new alliance, the Congress must show a different kind of leadership style which is more delegatory and less charismatic in nature than what is normally expected in politics! Jim Collins calls this the level 5 leadership. Here’s what you should do. Focus your energies completely on groups 3 and 4, which will make you fight a total of 172 seats across 10 states. The aim should be to garner at least half of these seats.

If you push a little hard, MP and Karnataka can give you a windfall taking you to the targeted number even if you draw a blank in Gujarat. Haryana can spring a surprise package too, but let’s not count on that now.

In groups 1 & 2 Congress must withdraw completely and fight zero seats and let the federal alliance partner/partners take the lead or have a seat sharing arrangement.

If this happens, the alliance partners will be putting their best efforts chasing their 346 seats without any votes being distributed among like-minded parties! This kind of focussed effort will lead to a higher strike rate than in 2019. If SP manages to improve their tally from 5 to 40, AAP and JMM grow from 2 to 20, DMK receives the additional 8 seats that the Congress had won in Tamil Nadu in 2019 and others retain their current strength, the regional parties would contribute a whopping 196 seats! If Congress wins 86 seats concentrating their efforts in groups 3 & 4 with their local leadership and cadre very much in place, the Federal Front Alliance will be sitting pretty at a comfortable majority with 282 seats! The BJP will spread itself too thin and become quite weak as they lack local leaders and alliance partners in most states. You still have the buffer of 25 seats from smaller states and Union Territories of which you or an alliance partner may garner a few more seats to add to the majority! 

The million dollar question is “Will you be able to do this?” Or in better words, “Will your ego allow you to play this role?”

The beauty of this strategy is that it’s not about compelling or convincing any of the alliance partners to follow any particular arrangement, but about the Congress party strategically withdrawing from its weak forts and strengthening its strongholds! 

I am sure that is worth a thought! 

These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.

Also read: I am ready for the yatra test — no, not Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo one