One way to stop Narendra Modi from getting back to power, or so goes the Lutyens’ Delhi logic, is to make sure that the BJP gets less than 220 seats and the NDA is held short of the 250-MP mark.
While one has to question where these two numbers come from – why 220, why not 219? – almost everyone you talk to in Lutyens’ Delhi these days is sure Modi isn’t coming back as PM. The identical set of people have also already decided that in case the party gets less than 220 MPs, either Nitin Gadkari or Rajnath Singh will be the next Prime Minister.
If you lived in or socialized with the Lutyens’ Delhi masses, you may be excused for thinking the last vote for 2019 general elections has been cast and counted, and we are already in a post-Modi era.
This is exactly what a strong section of the Congress is also buying. “Rahul ji’s ‘chowkidar chor hai’ war-cry is resonating with people over the country” and “Modi is certainly on his way out” are two claims that one learns often from the Congress leaders and the anti-Modi brigade. The Congress appears to believe that it is the logical alternative in case people don’t want to vote BJP.
If this was suitable, then why did the Congress end up a poor 3rd in the Jind bypoll while the BJP won a seat that it had never won earlier, even though the state government under Manohar Lal Khattar is understood to be inefficient and, according to the opposition, hugely unpopular? The fact that it couldn’t win in spite of the recent split in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and fielding Rahul Gandhi’s favorite and a man many see as a future chief minister of the state, Randeep Surjewala, should have sent the party running to find answers about what went wrong with its strategy.
What is the Congress plan?
The Congress assumes it is only reasonable that those seats will fall in its lap. This is where its planners seem to have got it all mixed up.
Wouldn’t it have been a smart thing for the Congress to get to the streets, especially in rural areas, against the “measly” Rs 500 per month dole to each farmer with land holdings of less than 2 hectares announced in the interim budget Friday? But, Team Rahul doesn’t appear to have figured this out yet.
Barring Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, there may not be too many additions for the party on its own.
The smart approach would have been to zero in on the 200-odd winnable seats, complete its selection process for those seats by now, and direct the applicants to begin a soft campaign. This would also have given the party time to soothe ruffled pieces and frayed tempers of rebels.
The AAP puzzle
A few days back, senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Gopal Rai stated that the party will “not enter into any alliance” with the Congress and rather than contesting on all seats in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on its own.
But, it was what he said before this announcement that was more interesting. He accused the Congress of being arrogant, showing that the AAP’s repeated attempts to close a pre-poll alliance with the Congress had not been finalized due to the latter’s character.
Put together, Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana account for 30 Lok Sabha seats. The Congress’ own local administration talks of a best-case scenario of winning 14 – eight in Punjab, 5 in Haryana and 1 seat in Delhi. With the AAP, even if the Congress were to win just 1 extra, helping AAP win 5 or 7, wouldn’t that have made better sense?
But Rahul Gandhi and his close advisers, most of whom seem to swim around in the Lutyens’ circle, seem to be under the confused notion that the anti-BJP vote will automatically get transferred to the Congress.
The Gandhis also have much to lose
What they don’t appear to guess is that Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have as much to lose as Rahul Gandhi and his family if they don’t maintain power. To grasp power and continue as PM, Modi will go to any limit, cross any Lakshman Rekha, and take full advantage by splitting opposition votes.
When Modi said after the interim budget that this was only the “trailer” and much more would follow, it wasn’t a statement – it was a letter to the voters.
Many in the Congress appeared to have understood this.