Rajneeti 2019 | National or Notional?

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A monthly column rounding up the latest news related to Indian politics in the run up to the 2019 General Elections. We’ve got you covered, with some laughs in between. 

An interesting development in the chapter of Indian Politics emerged when the Congress won multiple state elections in late 2018/early 2019. It showed that the party which had been decimated to only about forty-four seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections and to about three states in the state legislatures at its lowest point suddenly reared its head and showed that it was not the size of the the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), Trinamool Congress (TMC) or indeed any of the multiple other regional parties that dominate the various state elections. The fresh-faced Congress President was resurgent in his speeches and campaigning, going to multiple locations across the Hindu Heartland states of Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

The results showed; the Congress managed to pull off resounding victories in three states that contributed to 62 of the 65 available Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This meant, of course, that the Congress was still a force to reckon with. A fascinating question arises hence: Should the Congress resort to its 1990s tricks and form a multi-party coalition for the purposes of taking the helm in 2019, leading to a confusing division of power, or should the Congress forego this election and instead focus on state legislative elections and eventually, the mission to put the Gandhi scion on the throne in 2024. Many psephologists have presented counter views on local news channels, some say that the Congress should do everything in its power to come back to form the government, whether it be horse-trading of seats or shelving, if not foregoing, the prime ministerial ambitions of Mr. Gandhi. This however, will require someone to bell the cat. An alternative remedy of the Congress attaining a majority seems far-fetched and laughable. Mr. Gandhi needs to be informed that in the present scenario, no person thinks of him as a viable Prime Ministerial candidate: indeed, every poll shows the BJP led NDA getting close to 280 seats in the Lok Sabha, an absolute majority may also be on the cards. Mr. Gandhi needs to choose between bowing down to regional satraps while forming the government, and letting the wily old maverick from Gujarat have another five-year term at the helm.

A major blow was dealt to the formation of a non-BJP government when talks between the Congress, the SP and the BSP fell apart on seat sharing, the SP and the BSP giving the Congress only two of eighty seats in Uttar Pradesh, that of their bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareilly. However, this may not necessarily be a bad thing for the Congress. Sure, from the perspective of 2019, Mr. Modi may get over forty seats in Uttar Pradesh thanks to the anti-incumbent vote being split rather than the twenty that it would probably get against a united opposition, thus securing him closer to the halfway mark in the election. But it also means that the Congress will get an opportunity to sit in Parliament as a stronger opposition and manage their resources for the next election well. Indeed, it would help the Congress image to not be a part of a volatile coalition that may fall apart at any time and give rise to a new BJP wave in a couple of years. The real question at the end of the day is, will Mr. Gandhi see the signs?

Whether it be thanks to the 2019 interim budget, the strong economic position of the country, the response to the Pulwama attacks, the everpresent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backing, the behemoth of Amit Shah and his electoral machinery, or just thanks to the natural charisma of Mr. Modi, the 2019 election seems to be heading the same way as 2014. Will Mr. Gandhi take the risk and go all out at the fore, risking the chance of becoming a notional party if this, the last trick of his hat, fails? Or will he choose to remain a national party, gracefully accept defeat, and spend the next five years rebuilding his party from scratch, restoring trust amongst the people, and indoctrinating his newly incorporated sister, Mrs. Priyanka Vadra into the ranks of the Congress. A lot is at stake, the future of the oldest political party in the country being one of them. One wonders what the stalwarts of the Congress would have advised Mr. Gandhi. Can he be a bulwark against the once again rising tide of Saffron that threatens to engulf him and his party? May 2019 awaits, and with it, a lot of answers.

Shubham Morarka is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.

Featured image: Newslaundry