When Ahmed Patel, the trusted confidante of Sonia Gandhi, said last week days ago that the Congress is even ready to join the third front to keep Narendra Modi out, it betrayed the utter despair in Congress and allied camps in the face of certain defeat. The various hints coming from other Congress leaders reveal that they have accepted that the Congress may be reduced to a hopeless minority in the coming elections. They are ready to explore all options not with a positive agenda to lead a government but to get into bed with any one, with the sole aim of preventing communal forces, (which according to them Modi represents), from coming to power. Ahmed Patel went on to say they are willing to support a third front or if the situation is favourable, they are open to lead the formation of a government with the support of the third front and all secular forces opposed to Modi.
Politics truly makes strange bedfellows. No wonder Ronald Reagan said, “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resembles to the first.”
But such a scenario is very unlikely, given the unanimous poll surveys of various agencies, but it can not be totally ruled out. Life is full of surprises. The Congress in its desperation, as a last ditch effort, is whipping up hysteria, without realising that such frantic efforts may actually go against them. P Chidambaram once again in an NDTV interview a couple of days ago, called Modi ‘fascist ‘and compared him to Hitler, losing all sense of proportion. A few regional parties, notably TMC, led by Mamata Banerjee have expressed similar exaggerated fears that the country may burn with communal riots if Modi comes to power.
The Congress, more than others is familiar with such desperate coming together of disparate elements against itself, when Mrs Indira Gandhi was perceived as an ‘evil’ and a ruthless dictator and it was ‘anti Congressism’ that brought together a motley group which became The Janata Party. Ironically it was the Jana Sangh, the erstwhile version of BJP, which was one of the constituents. They had a single minded aimed to come together to defeat Indira Gandhi. It was only animosity against Indira that knitted them together. And it was inherently flawed. The coalition with mostly self-serving and power-hungry partners with conflicting and incongruous ideologies, working at cross-purposes soon dissipated and dissolved. Such experiments were repeated again a few times in later years but they failed miserably and as the formula did not stick. The propping up of Deve Gowda as the prime minister who commanded only sixteen MPs, by Congress support from the outside to keep BJP out at all costs, failed miserably and did not last long, comes to mind.
Now instead of ‘anti Indira’, it is ‘anti Modi’ forces plotting together, a coup of sorts to preempt the uncrowned King from Gujarat. Except what is overlooked is the context, which is totally different. Earlier, it was the anti-incumbency of the Congress and the antipathy to Indira Gandhi’s excesses that had brought inimical parties, friends and foes together to overthrow her, whereas now the resentment is against the incumbent Congress-led UPA and the scams during its reign, and the disgust with “high command politics” of Congress’s first family, which undermined the constitutional authority of the Prime Minister of the country and arrogated to itself authority without accountability. Maybe these shenanigans will work after five years, if Modi behaves communally or displays dictatorial tendencies and fails to deliver on good governance and development.
It is probably a good thing for the Congress to accept the writing on the wall with grace and listen to Rahul Gandhi’s initial advice. Rejuvenate, decentralise, democratise and strengthen the organisational structure of the moribund party. The country needs a good and effective opposition party to keep a check on Modi and BJP if it comes to power. The Congress should play that role and try its chance in the next elections.