2019: Will Too Many Cooks Spoil The Opposition Broth?The Congress president Rahul Gandhi has reconstituted the party working committee. The exercise was meant to make it more youthful, but the average age is still above 60 years. The new CWC met a couple of days ago and took two major decisions. The first was to pitch for Rahul Gandhi as PM for the 2019 general election campaign. The second was to give the president a free hand in entering into alliances with other parties to form a united front to fight the NDA.
By Sunil Garodia
The way the Congress has been decimated in state after state since 2014, it has no option but to enter into alliances. But the big question is whether regional parties will accept Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate. The leader of one of the biggest blocks of MPs and that figure is likely to increase in 2019 Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, has taken the lead in forming a federal front. She has her eye set on Delhi. She has announced a rally in Kolkata in January where she is going to invite all opposition leaders. That is nothing but an attempt to showcase the massive support she has in Bengal and overwhelm other leaders into accepting her as one of the strongest contenders for the post of the PM.
There are other contenders. Sharad Pawar has long nursed the dream to occupy the top chair although his dwindling support makes him the least favoured contender. But if Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati ally in UP and deliver more than 40 to 50 seats to the opposition front, both of them can stake serious claim. The Congress can only hope for Rahul as PM if it dramatically improves upon the 44 seats it got in 2014. With anti-incumbency in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, along with support for the party in Punjab and Gujarat, the Congress is likely to emerge as the largest opposition party, perhaps with a better margin against others. The last time, the difference between the Congress and the second largest opposition party, the AIADMK was of just 7 seats and between Congress and Trinamool Congress just 10 seats. If regional parties are within striking distance of Congress numbers, they are unlikely to accept Rahul as PM. Most opposition leaders have commented as much after the CWC made its decision known.
There is only one scenario where Rahul can hope to become the leader of the opposition front. If the front manages to best the NDA and if other opposition leaders cannot come to an agreement as to who should be prime minister, they will plump for Rahul Gandhi as the consensus candidate. But if a leader is not projected during the campaign, it will be a massive propaganda victory for the NDA. Narendra Modi will coin many jumlas about how the rag-tag grouping that cannot decide upon a leader will be incapable of ruling the country. He will lose no opportunity in putting down the front as opportunistic and formed out of hatred for Narendra Modi. There is no doubt that a united opposition that strategically manages its candidates and votes at the grassroots level is likely to beat the BJP. But for that to happen, they have to decide on a leader first and then back him or her to hilt. As of now, that seems unlikely.