By Mukhtar Ahmad
There is wide perception that congress party in 2019 is in much better position to take on BJP compared to 2009 when Bajpai was the leader . The difference however is that Bajpai was over confident with his shining India slogan and congress party was in disarray. The BJP therefore was complacent . Also the communal divide was not so actively pursued as it is now. Now Narendra Modi and Amit Shah duo although showing exuberance to boost the morale of workers are leaving no stone unturned and using all types of tricks to win this election. Another major difference between 2009 and 2019 is the role of media which completely controlled by the BJP. Now there are 100s of TV channels apart from vernacular newspapers that are working day and night propagating the agenda of BJP. The congress party with Rahul Gandhi as president has to counter it all alone .
The congress without doubt has the best credibility as secular party in spite of the fact that many of its leaders at state level and below are not so liberal. The problem with Rahul Gandhi is his hesitation in taking decisions and toeing a secular agenda. The delay in taking decision about alliances will cost it dearly. Now the best choice for him is to go it alone but keeping friendly relations with secular or anti BJP parties like TMC, SP, RJD, and JD (S).l. Knee jerk reactions on BJP statements are not required. He has to concentrate on the failures of BJP and dictatorial policies of Modi as the main issues. The demonetization, interference in Judiciary, CBI and not appointing Lokpal as well as allowing so many fraudesters like Neerav Modi, Mehul Chksi, Vijay Mallya must be hammered with full force.
Unemployment and not fulfilling the 2014 manifesto for farmers along with local issues must be higlightd. TRafal deal must be explained in simple terms as clear case of nepotism and corruption.
There is definitely no need to project himself as Janeu dhari Brahmin or devout Hindu which is what BJP wants him to do . He has to avoid BJP mode of politics and discourse. BJP wants to engage Rahul Gandhi to their choice of narrative which must avoid and keep hammering the failures of BJP government in all sphere of life.
The greatest weakness of congress party is the lack of leadership at state level and complacency among its members. Rahul Gandhi has been very slow in reacting to the situations arising at state level organization. He has missed or not been able to respond quickly over the leader quitting the party like Tom Vadakkan and others. A strong leader would have either persuaded these leaders to stay or simply shown the door. The Shiela dixit appointment as Delhi chief is difficult to understand. It seems there are no leaders available in Delhi to replace 80 year old Shiela . Her defiance of party leadership is also damaging the image of Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi seems to be under the impression that even with slightest support to minorities in their rights may be result in using Hindu votes. This is the worst analysis which is based on the fact that all Hindus are communally sensitive and go by the BJP narrative. For a National party like congress to support all communities in their hour of need and just causes openly.
The BJP plank for this election is to avoid any thing on the impact of inflation, job declines and effect of demonetization etc . and simply rhetoric talk of Nationalism. It will be very important fir Rahul to simply put that National interest has always been a priority for all the governments from 1947 onwards. There is nothing new that has changed what people should judge the government is by its performance in improving the life of the Kissan, students, traders etc.
Uttar Pradesh is crucial for BJP and Congress party has not much in stake here. The party has to therefore devise its strategy very carefully . It may contest large number of seats but must select only reasonable number of seats where it should concentrate.
The author is former professor of Electrical Engineering AMU ALigarh