Finding effective ‘like-minded’ allies, an uphill task for Cong

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 21 Mar 2018 10:49:10

By Kartik Lokhande,









Whenever Congress was in power, it ensured that a ‘tension’ was always there on allies or their leaders. So, even if the like-minded parties come together with Congress, they may be apprehensive as to the game of political oneupmanship played by Congress

“CONGRESS will adopt a pragmatic approach for co-operation with all like-minded parties and evolve a common workable programme to defeat the BJP-RSS in the 2019 elections.” This is the statement of Rahul Gandhi, President of All India Congress Committee, while moving a Political Resolution during the Congress party’s 84th plenary session in New Delhi on Saturday.

At face value, the statement appears to be something of a strategy in the political battle against the BJP, which has been largely successful in moving ahead towards realising its goal of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ by causing electoral rout of Congress in most of the major elections held in the last few years. However, if one goes deeper, one wonders if Congress is really in a position to adopt ‘a pragmatic approach’ and to find ‘like-minded parties’ that can help it defeat BJP in the general elections due next year (unless there are pre-term elections).

The first part is ‘a pragmatic approach.’ As far as Congress party is concerned, this may be a sign of change if it is backed by action on social front. For, it has been Congress’ unchanged policy to appease various sections of the society on the lines of religion, caste, sect. On most occasions, it proved to be lip-service and nothing else. For example, despite it talking of minority rights with particular focus on Muslims as a vote-bank, it could not deliver justice to Muslims and this had come out in the Justice Rajinder Sachar Commission’s report in 2006.

“Muslims, the largest minority community in the country, constituting 13.4 per cent of the population, are seriously lagging behind in terms of most of the human development indicators. While the perception of deprivation is widespread among Muslims, there has been no systematic effort since Independence to analyse the condition of religious minorities in the country,” observed the commission in its report. This particular observation is enough to indicate how Congress has paid mere lip-service to issues pertaining to minorities or social groups. Against this backdrop, the ‘pragmatic approach’ that Rahul Gandhi is talking about may turn into another episode of lip-service, if there is no political resolve to work honestly for welfare of various social sections without appeasement for the sake of political gains. But, one will have to wait for the events to unfold to see how exactly does Rahul Gandhi pursue this ‘pragmatic approach’.

Another important part of his speech was co-operating with ‘like-minded allies’ to defeat the BJP in 2019 elections. If one goes a little farther, one finds that Congress has been allying with various parties in different parts of the country. For example, in Maharashtra, it joined hands with Nationalist Congress Party and had two consecutive stints in the Government. However, in both the stints, it had not been a very smooth sailing for both parties together.

In fact, in the second stint in Maharashtra Government, Congress and NCP were described as ‘sparring partners’. Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister and Congress leader, was the one to blow the whistle against Ajit Pawar, Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader, over little improvement in area under irrigation despite huge spending in past years. On various occasions, the ‘like-minded’ allies have accused the Congress party of trying to not only dominate the decision-making process but also to devise ways and means to reduce their influence in respective States. Take the case of Communist Party of India (Marxist).

During the first term of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by Congress party, CPI (M) was on board as an ally. However, on the issue of Indo-US nuclear deal, CPI (M) withdrew. Congress immediately reached out to Samajwadi Party (SP) and got support. Whenever Congress was in power, it ensured that a ‘tension’ was always there on allies or their leaders. So, even if the like-minded parties come together with Congress, they may be apprehensive as to the game of political one-upmanship played by Congress.

Besides, roping in like-minded parties is no mean task. For, one has to accommodate and liquidate all the inherent differences — ideological, social, political, and economic — of these parties and drive them towards one common goal. Then only, the term ‘like-minded’ comes into play. This is better said than done. There exists nothing like being ‘like-minded’. For, when it comes to making of a common manifesto before elections, the factors of inherent differences dominate each party’s thinking and no one is willing to do away with years-old image of oneself.
One more thing that makes finding ‘like-minded’ allies difficult is the non-availability of statesmanly leaders who have friends in various political parties irrespective of political differences.

Today, Congress cannot expect a seasoned warrior like Pranab Mukherjee to become politically active to revive the party’s falling fortunes because he is former President of India. A man who has occupied the highest chair in the country, is beyond political considerations. Further, over the years, in a bid to promote Rahul Gandhi, his mother and party’s former President Sonia Gandhi and her closed group of advisors ensured that even the brilliant brains like Dr Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram were given secondary treatment. Though there are many young faces, most of them do not have pan-India acceptance. None of them is, at present, equipped with the experience and acceptance level of an emissary of Congress party to go and talk to political parties to not only bring them on a common platform but also to form an ‘effective’ alliance to defeat BJP. Not only the trade and commerce entities but also the political ones carefully weigh ‘cost:benefit’ ratio before taking any decision on investment.

In politics, when a particular party is reaching out to others, the others also weigh what will be the benefit for them and how long will it last. Here, the past of the Congress party may come to haunt it. There may be many finer points worth considering while one analyses the statement of Rahul Gandhi. But, for now, Rahul Gandhi will have to really live by the promise of ‘change’ that he has made during the 84th plenary session of his party. If there is no ‘change’, internally and externally, his words will severely lack the support of action. In that case, the BJP may have better chances of continuing with its political aim of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, without any considerable opposition from Congress.