Thiruvananthapuram: As expected, the spat between Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) in Madhya Pradesh has exposed the limitations of the INDIA alliance to emerge as a cohesive pre-poll political axis to take head on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
What is being played out in the central Indian state could just be a teaser. The full-length power play within the rainbow grouping is set to be enacted in many other states including the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, ahead of parliament elections.
True, SP is not a a significant player in MP, where elections have always been fought out between the BJP and the Congress. Still, coalition dharma enjoins upon the bigger partner to accommodate minor allies within the ambit of the political front it leads.
Had Congress made a few concessions to the Akhilesh Yadav-led party that would have sent a positive message to all Indian constituents, irrespective of their size or national insignificance.
From reports coming out of Madhya Pradesh, it is obvious that the Congress’s state leadership is averse to taking the SP on board on the latter’s terms. In Madhya Pradesh, right now, the shots are called by Kamal Nath, who has set his eyes on the top slot. Other leaders like Digvijaya Singh are not very prominently in the picture. Pre-poll surveys have given a slight edge to the Congress. Still, the party knows pretty well that every single seat counts and the present momentum needs to be maintained till the last minute of the polling to secure a comfortable win.
On the other side, refusing to be disheartened by the opinion polls, the BJP has mounted a power-packed campaign, which will be heading to a crescendo in the coming days.
Annexing Madhya Pradesh and retaining Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan is critical for the Congress. The party’s confidence hs received a further boost with opinion polls suggesting clear edge in Telangana as well.
If actual results in these states match pre-poll surveys, the Congress would emerge as the big boss of the INDIA alliance and the natural claimant for the prime minister’s post, in case the BJP along with its NDA allies fail to notch up a simple majority in the 2024 parliament elections.
Still, there are many states where the Congress’s hopes could be put paid, unless it adopts a more generous stance towards regional allies across state borders. Obviously, the most critical of these political geographies is Uttar Pradesh. The SP, the key player in UP, has made it clear that it would mete out the same treatment it received from the Congress on the home turf.
A similar scenario could unfold in West Bengal, Punjab and Delhi, and in varying degrees in many other states including Maharashtra and Bihar, where the Congress is overly dependent on allies to ensure that the BJP fails to cross the halfway mark in the Lok Sabha.
Regional parties like SP, All India Trinamool Congress and RJD may not be very happy at the emergence of the Congress as a strong national player. They know pretty well that gains of the Congress, to a great extent, will be at their cost.
A victory in Telangana would mean Congress had weaned away a big chunk of the minority votes. The party’s strong espousal of the caste survey could make it more appealing to sections of the back ward class communities, if not the entire OBC block across the states. The Congress strategists are busy working on plans to regain the Dalit, minority and intermediate caste support base the party had lost over the last few decades. This positioning of Congress has upset parties like SP, RJD and Trinamool Congress as they are apprehensive of their core base getting eroded.
The co-ordination committee of INDIA, set up with much fanfare during its past conclaves, is nowhere to be seen. In the absence of a common minimum programme, inter-state alliances and meaningful inter-constituent engagement, the chances of INDIA maturing into a credible pre-poll alliance dim.