As the BJP stormed into power in 2014, beating even their own expectations, the Congress was left in the lurch, licking its wounds. Buoyed by their confidence of the win, the BJP went onto to win the subsequent state elections held in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, purely riding on the so-called Modi wave, which has its epicenter in the ‘Gujarat Model’ of governance, he is famous for and formed an alliance with the PDP, a party they acrimoniously criticized hitherto.
A sense of euphoria filled the BJP supporters and they taunt anyone with opposing views with impunity, as many of them are tacitly backed by their party leaders, including the PM himself who follows some of the most abusive and vile twitter handles. This doesn’t augur well for a democracy as the voice of opposition is lost. For India’s progress we need have checks and balances so that no one party becomes too powerful.
And just when they seemed invincible, the rude shocks of Delhi being won by the AAP and Bihar by the grand alliance grounded them. For a while. The arrogance continued unabated.
However, the principal opposition party, the Congress continued to cower in the political landscape and displayed no fire in their belly to make a comeback. The grand old party Congress now led by the 5th generation Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi was in news majorly for his 55-day sabbatical during an important budget session. No major decision was taken after humiliating defeat in 2014 followed by state elections.
Rahul Gandhi raised many issues such as Net neutrality and the Land Acquisition Bill and even took a few pot-shots at the government calling it the Suit Boot Sarkar and Arhar Modi, a reference to the soaring prices of pulses. He however failed to make an impact that caught the nation’s attention. To make matters worse, there was no discernable plan to rescue the party from the risk of being pushed into oblivion.
Further, there appeared some friction with the old guard, especially with Sheila Dixit and Amarindar Singh stating that Sonia Gandhi should continue as the president and call the shots. This was interpreted by many as a lack of confidence in the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
However, with Sonia Gandhi not being at the prime of her health, Rahul Gandhi became the de-facto president and began taking major decisions. He successfully solved the internal conflict between Pratap Singh Bajwa and Captain Amarinder Singh in Punjab. In Delhi and Rajasthan his close aides Ajay Maken and Sachin Pilot respectively who have shown promising signs of recovery. Even his oratory skills improved and he won praise from Sitaram Yechury for his speech on Intolerance. On Demonetization, he led the opposition against Modi Govt and even the strong woman of Bengal, Mamta Banerjee attended a press conference with him. His issue based politics have slowly begun taking on the charisma of Modi.
Despite suffering a loss in UP as a part of the grand alliance along with the SP, the Congress was content with winning the major state of Punjab. After winning Punjab, captain Amarinder changed his opinion about Rahul Gandhi and advocated that it’s the right time for Rahul Gandhi to take over the party and that he has all the potential to become a Prime Minister of country.
Given this mixed bag, is the Congress ready for 2019? While a lot of their tainted legislators have moved to the ruling party, do they have the strategy to explain to people that they have largely purged their party off controversial leaders?
It doesn’t look as grim as the media and social media which is largely run by the right win supporters would have one believe. The primary support base of the Congress is the weaker and vulnerable sections of the society, which is seldom on the internet. The government, despite its glitzy advertisements has not been able to deliver on its promises. On the contrary the economy is in shambles, with even the usually robust IT sector in a deep crisis. There is a deep policy paralysis and the government is muddling through on good PR from its friends in the media.
The agrarian crisis has deepened and the insensitive handling of it has enraged from from across the country. There were farmers’ agitations in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and in Madhya Pradesh where protesting farers were shot at fatally.
The GDP growth has fallen from 7.1% of Q3 to 6.1% in Q4 and revealed that the manufacturing sector was the worst affected due to demonetization. Implementation of GST will further add to the woes of manufacturers and traders as inflation is expected to rise and new compliance rules are confusing.
The arrogance of the government, which refuses to inasmuch as face a press conference and answer difficult questions has many people seething with anger and disappointment. Further the witch-hunt against the opposition parties is bringing them all together. Given that India has over the years grown accustomed to coalition politics, the opposition coming together will be good for democracy.
What remains to be seen is how quickly will the opposition come together and arrive at a consensus to form a coherent strategy. We are less than 24 months away from the elections!
Article is authored by Yash Gupta, CA Student