It is the Opposition allies, not Congress, who are more effective in taking on the BJP.

 

New Delhi:Post the lockdown, the Congress siblings seem to have upped the ante by taking on the government from Hathras to the farmers’ cause in Punjab. What is interesting is that both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are there on ground along with the party cadre. Initially, it was Priyanka who was spearheading such protests, such as the anti-CAA agitation and later on taking on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over the battle of the buses for the migrants during lockdown. Although she confines her activities to Uttar Pradesh, her brand of street politics was being compared to Rahul Gandhi’s studio interviews and social media heckling of the Prime Minister. Now it seems as if Rahul has also rolled up his sleeves and is reaching out—physically and not just virtually. While the jury is still out as to whether the G-23 revolt was a success or not, one thing is certain: it did manage to underline the need for a hands on leadership. Rahul has taken the first few steps in this context. It remains to be seen if he will be consistent with his game plan or will this be another shoot-and-scoot leadership display as is what happened during Bhatta Parsaul.

Having said this, the Congress stakes are not very high in any of the states going to polls soon. Bihar goes to polls in November and the Congress can at best play a supporting role in the Nitish Kumar vs Tejashwi Yadav fight. However, a win for the Mahagathbandan—though political analysts give the upper hand to the NDA—would send the right message to the opposition. The 28 Assembly bypolls in Madhya Pradesh that are also taking place in November offer a more interesting subtext for the Congress, for here the fight is both political and personal. Jyotiraditya Scindia is leading the charge from the BJP side, while ex Chief Minister Kamal Nath is throwing all that he has got to ensure the Congress gets the upper hand. He may not be able to destabilise Shivraj Singh Chouhan in these bypolls, as the incumbent government has the edge, but a win for the Congress would go a long way in settling scores with his bête-noir Scindia.

State polls in 2021 include West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. While the Congress stakes are almost negligible in both West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, its stakes are higher in Kerala and Assam. In fact, the party is hopeful of making a comeback in Assam, banking on the thwarted ambitions of Himanta Biswa Sarma as one of the factors in its favour. The moot point is, will the Congress go with Tarun Gogoi as its CM face or go in for a generational change?

It will be a while before the Congress gets its act together in terms of an outright electoral win against the BJP. In the meantime, it is the Opposition allies who are more effective in taking on the BJP; whether it is Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, M.K. Stalin in Tamil Nadu, Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, or even the idea of a Tejashwi Yadav in Bihar.

Rahul Gandhi had always complained that his mother’s team prevented him from doing his job properly. Well now he has more or less his own team in place, added to which he has a supportive sibling by his side. Will he now be able to mount a more effective electoral challenge to the BJP? Because in the end, it’s the votes that count not social media posts or snappy rhetoric.