Thiruvananthapuram: Jairam Ramesh, Communication in Charge of the Indian National Congress (INC), has said that his party would like all opposition parties to recognize it as the pivot of the non-Bharatiya Janata Party (non-BJP) axis in parliament elections in 2024, for any meaningful national alliance to emerge.
While addressing a press conference at Khanaba in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of the conclusion of the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi, Ramesh reportedly stated that “the Congress has to be the pivot of alliance of the opposition parties in 2024 parliamentary elections to make it meaningful.”
The inference one could draw from Ramesh’s ambitious positioning of his party is that INC will be pressing the regional allies to de facto accept it as their lead component in a possible pre- or post-election alliance, however loose and amorphous such an axis be.
The proof of the pudding, however, is in the eating. The Grand Old Party (GOP) has to prove that its strength in the grim electoral battles spread over several states in 2023, where it has to fight it out with the principal adversary BJP. The INC also has to establish its political clout in other big states like Uttar Pradesh where it has fared miserably in elections over the last several years. A herculean task indeed, considering the party’s present health.
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Regional parties, holding forte in many states, have not yet given any clue that they see Congress as a national alliance leader. It is obvious that many of them are in no mood to give away to the Congress a good chunk of the Lok Sabha seats in respective states. Each one of them would be eyeing a prominent role in the event of the elections throwing up a fractured verdict.
This would mean the Congress has to settle for very few seats even in states like Tamil Nadu, where it is an open ally of the ruling DMK. The same is the case with Maharashtra where the Congress is a minor partner in the alliance led by Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. In Bihar too, the Congress will have to settle for a handful of seats.
In Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal , Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir as well as the north eastern states the Congress will have to get squeezed in the fight between the respective regional player and the BJP, unless it benefits from a political upset.
In Kerala, it will again be a straight contest between LDF and the UDF, where the Congress is the lead component of the latter. In 2019, the UDF virtually swept the poll winning 19 of the 20 LS seats. The state sent the largest contingent of 15 Congress members to the Lok Sabha. But the situation does not appear to be smooth this time as internal strife in the party and organisational debilities may come in the way of cashing in on the anti-incumbency factor.
This scenario makes it obvious that the Congress has to rout the BJP in Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The assembly elections in some of these states in 2023 will provide some clue if the Congress is in a position to regain its lost national status.
Considering the harsh realities, it appears to be too early on the part of Congress leaders to hope that Bharat Jodo Yatra has made it fighting fit, and handsome electoral returns are awaiting the party as people across political geographies have been mesmerized.