The ‘ekla chalo’ formula is over for the Congress. Chastened by the massive defeat in the general elections at the hands of the BJP, which went for micro alliances across the country to reap rich political dividends, the Congress has started doing a rethink on the policy of going it alone it started in 2009.
Rahul Gandhi had taken the “going it alone” line after the Congress led UPA to its second consecutive term in 2009. The party had opted out of a pre-poll alliance with Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and political pundits had predicted doom at Rahul’s decision. But the Congress won 22 out of 80 parliament seats way back then, and the clamour for Congress going alone got louder across the country. But times have changed and so has the thinking within the party. There is a general consensus that Congress needs to accept the ground situation and work together mending fences with regional parties to thwart Narendra Modi led BJP in the upcoming elections.
The first such indication became obvious at Congress president’s Iftar party last Sunday. RJD Chief Lalu Prasad and JD(U) President Sharad Yadav were seen sharing the same table with Sonia Gandhi. Gone are the days when the Yadav stalwarts used to be locked in verbal duels in Parliament against each other. "We have decided that we will unite and this unity will continue in the coming days," Sharad Yadav told reporters in Patna. "There is solidarity amongst ourselves as we will rewrite history by uniting the votes which got divided amongst us." Yadav added.
Ten assembly seats are going to polls on 21 August due to various members being elected to Parliament, and the Congress has managed to seal a deal where it contests two seats while the other two four each. This new alliance is confident of breaking the Modi wave, the three parties had polled around 44.3% votes in the just concluded general elections, that is significantly higher than the BJP-led alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok JanShakti Party (LJP) and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) which cornered 38.8% of the votes.
"The by elections in Bihar are being viewed as the semi-finals before Bihar goes to polls next year," says Tarit Prakash, Director, Voter’s Mood Research and political analyst. "The numbers do stack up against BJP if the three (Congress, RJD, JDU) get together, but it will not be easy for them as the Modi hangover is still around. It will be the first real test of Modi’s popularity against a grand alliance of sorts," he adds.
A similar move has been headway in the western state of Maharashtra as well where the Congress and the NCP are in talks with Samajwadi Party to consolidate the fragmented vote against the BJP-led Mahayuti (Grand Alliance) in the state. BJP-Shiv Sena led grand alliance won 42 out of 48 seats in the state, which has forced the ruling combine to rethink their strategy. Muslims make up almost 10-11% of the electorate in the state. Samajwadi Party has two MLAs from the community and a split of the vote is likely between the Congress, NCP and SP. The past assembly election saw the number of Muslim MLA’s jump to 11 in the 288 member assembly, while they finished second or third in almost 30 other seats. If an alliance can be worked out, then the combine can hope to win these 40 odd seats easily in the upcoming elections.
"I cannot comment about the alliance as of now, but our leaders are in touch," says Rajeev Satav, president of Indian Youth Congress and Rahul loyalist. "There is a need to unite and challenge the divisive agenda of the BJP and we will do everything we can to prevent these forces from coming to power in the state," he adds. Satav is one of the only two Congress MP’s from Maharashtra.
While the BJP hopes to cash in on the Modi wave in the northern state of Haryana on its own, the Congress is busy trying to open communication lines with estranged Congress leader and Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) leader Kuldip Bishnoi. Congress could only retain the Rohtak seat in 2014 general elections while it had won 9 out of 10 seats in 2009. BJP and HJC had fought this election together and had agreed on a seat sharing formula of 45 seats each for the upcoming assembly elections. But the BJP won 7 Parliament seats while HJC couldn’t open its account in 2014, and that has bolstered the state BJP cadre to go it alone. Sources say the BJP is not willing to give more than 25 seats to HJC and is in no mood to keep its promise of making Bishnoi the chief minister as per the earlier agreement.
"Congress is keen to bring back Bishnoi because they know that he will get a raw deal from the BJP,” says a senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity. "Bishnoi is a big non-Jat face in Haryana and he can bring a chunk of that vote back into the Congress fold. Unfortunately the Chief Minister (BS Hooda) is not in favour of bringing back Bishnoi as of now because this would mean Hooda losing clout over the state unit” he confides.
The rise of Narendra Modi has altered the political landscape to such an extent that has proved the Arabian proverb correct that an enemy’s enemy is a friend. Perhaps the harsh political scenario seems to have shaken the Grand Old Party, as the Congress high command seems to be working overtime to seal such alliances in various states.
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Updated Date: Jul 31, 2014 21:42:58 IST