AA Edit | Will Rahul walk the talk and unite Opposition?

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

The party leadership never showed the kind of unity of purpose Mr Gandhi would want it to demonstrate.

Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi takes part in the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' march in New Delhi (AFP)


After 100-plus days and covering 3,000-odd kilometres, the Bharat Jodo Yatra has succeeded in giving the Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi the confidence to present a political agenda before the party, the Opposition and the country: A united Opposition and an alternative vision can defeat the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Mr Gandhi bases his theory on several observations. The most important of these is that although Hindu-Muslim hatred and violence are being spread 24x7, especially on the electronic media, he saw none on the ground. He surmises that the hate campaign is carried out to divert attention from the real issues people face, there is an anti-incumbency wave in the country, the Opposition needs a central ideological framework, and the Congress after Bharat Jodo Yatra is capable of providing that framework.

For Mr Gandhi, the Congress’ job is to make other Opposition parties comfortable and get them to join the fight against the BJP. Should it happen, it will become very difficult for the BJP to win the next election. He would keep the doors open for all the Opposition leaders to join the Yatra but would not quarrel with those who do not “for political compulsions”.

Mr Gandhi has a prescription for the economy where India would emerge as a “production nation” instead of a “rent-seeking” one; and its education policy would allow children to let their imaginations fly and look beyond usual careers. His foreign policy framework would hyphenate China and Pakistan while designing responses.

Mr Gandhi may have a point when he says a joint Opposition can stop an easy victory for the NDA in the next elections. The states which are run by parties opposed to the NDA contribute close to half the seats in the Lok Sabha but the BJP sweeps the elections in most. There can be many reasons but the lack of a cohesive alternative policy framework is undoubtedly one. If communal hatred ceases to be a vote-catcher, as Mr Gandhi would like us to believe, then the Opposition unity attains a purpose.

Mr Gandhi is talking of unseating the BJP at a time when political observers will have little qualms about writing off such a possibility and the BJP is aggressively pursuing the slogan of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, however outrageous the idea may be to make the main Opposition party in a democracy vanish. Whether one should blame the BJP or not for the way it has undermined Congress governments in several states is one issue but the fact remains that the grand old party gave in to the machinations without resistance.

The party leadership never showed the kind of unity of purpose Mr Gandhi would want it to demonstrate now when its governments have come under attack, draining the morale of not only his party workers but of the entire Opposition. If this changes and a new sense of aggression rejuvenates it, it will do good, not only to the Congress but also to democracy. Yet it remains to be seen if Mr Gandhi and his party would walk the talk on this and other matters.