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Communalism as windfall

 

In UP, the Congress is trying to chart a course different from the SP and BSP, reports Pramod Kumar
PRAMOD KUMAR | Issue Dated: September 29, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Muzzafarnagar | prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi | Lok Sabha seats in 2014 | UP Congress leader Rashid Masood | UPA 3 |
 

With the General Elections a few months away, if a communal outrage takes place, political calculations cannot be too far away from the scene. The recent outbreak in Muzzafarnagar is a case in point. While the SP government stands discredited, the BJP is calculating how much this political polarization will benefit it. Its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has chosen not to say anything on the riots.


While SP evaluations projected a whopping 60-plus Lok Sabha seats in 2014 for itself, that clearly is not happening now. The other big player, BSP’s Mayawati, is playing her cards close to her chest opting for emotional appeals; the Congress is trying to stand alone as a party which is committed to minority welfare and different from the rest.


Since the Congress campaign is firmly in the hands of Rahul Gandhi and his team, the buzzword at the Congress headquarters on Lutyen’s Akbar Road is that the party should return to its old moorings: no caste, no majority-minority politics but only development as the overriding credo for winning votes. According to party sources, Rahul’s own thinking is that repeating old faces will not help and the need of the hour is to introduce new members as Congress candidates.


To buttress the point, Karnataka is being seen as an example where the party chose a new face and went about its work without fanfare or drama and won. The advent of Modi, has in a sense, galvanised the party. Says prominent western UP Congress leader Rashid Masood: ‘‘With Modi emerging, the Congress is pretty confident of its vote bank coming back. Add to it, infighting in the BJP, and we find ourselves on a strong wicket.’’


As part of a deliberate strategy, the Congress has decided not to launch personal attacks on Narendra Modi. No comment has been offered on the battle of attrition going on in the BJP; neither has there been any excitement on the several attacks launched on the person of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by the opposition, particularly the BJP. In the Congress it is an accepted fact that should the party get the desired number of seats in the Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi’s candidature for the top job is without any question. Says Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi: ‘‘That is the difference between the two parties. In the Congress tradition, a leader is chosen by the elected MPs while in BJP, a leader has been declared riding roughshod over its most important leader.’’

 

Our flagship programmes will benefit us

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tiwari says they are not banking on opposition follies

The general view in the Congress is that the opposition is weak, that there is turf war in the BJP between Advani and Modi and that all this will benefit the party.
The Congress is preparing hard for the elections. It is a fact that Narendra Modi in his keenness to become PM has sidelined the man who laid down the foundation for the BJP but that is an internal matter of that party and we would not like to say anything. But Congress will win on its own steam, not because the opposition is fighting.

Will the elections be easy for the Congress?
I do not think so but our plans are foolproof to get the UPA in for another term and we are working towards that under the leadership of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

Will the voter overlook inflation and corruption and vote for the achievements of the UPA and Congress?
Sure there is inflation but we are trying to fight it; there is corruption but we are trying to counter it. We have many achievements to our credit, land reforms, RTI, Right to Education, right to food; these are the issues we will go to the public with.

To be sure, activities inside the party are beginning to take into account the likely damage that could be caused by the BJP and even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in its quest to reach the magic figure of 272. But such is the low key nature of planning that even senior Congress leaders are not in the know of what transpires in their war rooms, currently ensconced at Rahul Gandhi’s Tughlaq Road office-cum-residence, the party headquarters at 24 Akbar Road and sundry Congress MP bungalows at North and South Avenue.


Insiders say that the party war machine is preparing to introduce new and youthful faces as repeating some MPs will prove to be counter-productive. The examples quoted are the victory of youthful Ramaiya in the recent Karnataka bye-elections and the nomination of Jyotiraditya Scindia as the MP in charge. If anything, there is disquiet in the party about Rahul Gandhi’s own intention which appears far from clear.Trouble shooter Digvijay Singh has expressed his desire to contest from either Bhopal or Vidisha; he has been asked by Rahul himself if he is serious and if he is, why not let party cadres know about it? Rahul reportedly told Digvijay that there are many leaders in the party who are too scared to even talk to the party high command!


As for the main strategy, the Congress is convinced that instead of attacking Modi personally, they will go whole hog on highlighting achievements of their flagship programmes. While the party is keen to attack Modi’s policies as non-inclusive, there are to be no personal asides.


At Rahul’s office, Kanishka Singh is the coordinator-in-chief. Congress sources say that some leading advertisement companies have been hired to put into place a campaign which would blunt the Modi edge. In doing so, there are all indications that in the end it could turn out to be an American presidential style campaign designed to help Rahul. Which is why Congress spokesman Mohan Prakash told this magazine that despite the infighting in the BJP, the Congress is under no illusion about the enormity of the task ahead. ‘‘We want a fool proof plan to put Rahul and UPA 3 in place by 2014,’’ he says. There are many in the Congress who believe that things are moving their way; it is the Congress luck which they are ultimately banking upon.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017