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Monday, May 4, 2009

Congress threat to sit in Opposition


I alluded to Rahul Gandhi's "off the record" briefing to political editors in my earlier blog. The Congress chose to make the gist of this conversation public on Sunday. The were three significant points of this intervention:

  • The Congress would insist on Manmohan Singh as the next PM. In short, it would not agree to either another leader or a Third Front or Sharad Pawar-led government. He said that his mother agreed with making Manmohan's position non-negotiable.
  • Rahul said he was not looking at the next 15 days but the next 15 years.
  • He said that the Congress had done well and was hoping to do well in Kerala, Orissa, Chhattisgrarh, Punjab and Rajasthan. It is significant that he omitted Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from the first point where the Congress signals that it will not yield to Third Front pressure, there is nothing particularly upbeat about Rahul's pronouncements. It is not the sort of statement a party issues in the middle of an election.

What does it amount to?

At the risk of over-interpretation, I would suggest that Rahul is setting the stage for an indifferent Congress performance on May 16. He is trying to occupy a high moral ground to gloss over possible tactical blunders and an unsatisfactory performance.

More important, he is playing a game of brinkmanship with Prakash Karat. He is suggesting that in case the Third Front remains intransigent on a Manmohan-led government, the Congress may be willing to sit in opposition and allow a government with BJP involvement.

The calculation is that "secular" forces will put pressure on the Left and the Third and Fourth Fronts to see reason. There are too many game plans that will be upset if the Congress shies away from leading the government and upholds abstract principles.

There will also be sustained international pressure.

I don't believe that either the Congress and Left have uttered the last word. Both are waiting for the final figures. But Rahul has indicated clearly that he doesn't mind if the Congress sits in Opposition. Digvijay Singh has said so quite explicitly. Will the rest of his party agree?

23 comments:

Anshul said...

Hi Mr Dasgupta

This coming on top of Priyanka's too close to call comment,also points to a serious intropection on the longer term strategy. If its a really fractured mandate, leading a very unstable coalition for a short period of time (aka 1996-98) with a worsening economy etc might be drinking from a poisoned chalice for either of the two national parties.

Your take on the converse would be interesting - would it make sense for BJP to cobble an unstable coaltition with likes of Maya if its actually a 'hung house' with a slight advantage to NDA? It might give Mr Advani the topjob before his retirement but may well mar Mr Modi's chances vs Rahul baba for the next round

Ajay2 said...

Rahul Gandhi is clearly looking at 2014 more keenly than 2009. Moreover, he can justifiably be confident that other Left leaders will drag Karat along and make a beeline to the Congress Party headquarters if the BJP is close to forming a government in Delhi. So his pronouncements are nothing new.

What it does do is make him appear more statesmanlike than he really is. Giving very diplomatic statements, in the event that the Congress party loses. The Congress party needs a reason for the loss, just incase it does happen. And with the Congress party, the Gandhi dynasty cannot be blamed and so they always have a couple of excuses at hand - division of secular votes, polarization of electorate etc are phrases Im sure we'll hear on 16th. Dr. MMS will take the absolute blame, so that the bloodline is untarnished. If the Congress does win however, entire credit will go to Rahul Gandhi (not even Sonia, MMS is ofcourse not even in the question). The rest of his party can afford to make the 'impolitic' 'unstatesmenlike' statements like, 'we will get absolute majority and form government' etc. Rahul Gandhi has to appear to remain above all this petty politics.

So I don't think the Congress is threatening the Left by saying we'll sit in the opposition. The Congress is a power hungry party.

Moreover, as soon as the election results come in, MMS will be shown the door by the Congress and he will retire with dignity. The Left will like a Pranab kind of person who can be easily pushed around. MMS is absolutely expendable for the Congress party. Strange that they accuse Advani, without whom the BJP wouldn't exist as being just a night watchmen, while the whole world and his dog knows that MMS/Pranab are just the night watchmen till the Gandhi can get to the PM's chair.

doubtinggaurav said...

Swapanda,

What according to you is the best outcome for BJP.

As far as I am concerned I don't believe that BJP can lead a coalition from strength. The options from worst to bad are

1. BJP forms a weak govt. which collapses after bickering and scandals Congress runs on stability, wins, rules again for 5 yrs.

2. BJP props Mayawati, with the usual results.

3. BJP props other third front/fourth front leader led weak and corrupt govt. get blamed for the performance, suffers in mid-term poll.

4. Congress props up secular front withdraws support as soon as possible with Rahul as candidate.

5. Congress forms unstable govt. collapses mid term poll with Rahul as candidate.


I will prefer 4 or 5 as long as next election is being fought under Modi.

Gujarat Gagan said...

There are Christian Missionaries forces operating from abroad. They will play strong role to ensure Congress government getting power. This is because, they can do aggressive on Christian conversion front under Christian and more importantly Christian sympathizer and supporter lady Sonia Gandhi influenced government. America, France and some other major European nations will play some role to see that key of power remain with Sonia Gandhi.

If Congress becomes largest single party, President would invite Congress to form a government and then onwards all type of horse trading will take place. I think, Congress is experienced to get power by doing all sins and it will prove it's majority.

If BJP becomes largest single party, I doubt, what happens.

Ajay said...

Reports about low Dalit voter turnout in UP are pouring in. What impact will this have on results from UP

ramana said...

What is Nitish Kumar doing in Bihar? The PMitis disease seems to have got him. Perhaps he needs a dose of antidote of reality.

Will he play footsie with Congress?

venkatesh said...

Swapan Da,

There is something else which can be used in soothsaying. it is the markets. The sensex has been climbing quite rapidly in the past 2 weeks or so. It gained 6 percent only today.

This is on the back of terrible news on the economic front ie 33 percent fall in exports in April. What is the market trying to day? I am pretty convinced that the market is not expecting a hung assembly, which if was the case there would be constant bouts of selling. The satodiyas are not naive to put their monmey where their mouth is. I interpret this to mean that there is a stable govt. RG and co, say they dont mind sitting in the opposition, which leads to one conclusion. Congress is losing bad and BJP is gaining big. Call me an optimist if you like, but I trust the market a lot more than NDTV!!!!!

Oldtimer said...

Swapanji, "sustained international pressure" from who on who? Hopefully not from a city-state in Europe on (obviously) the Congress? Not that it should matter who's the one putting the pressure, but I seriously would love to assure myself that there are indeed extreme rightwing conspiracy theories.

Ajay2 said...

@doubtinggaurav,
I think the chances 1,2 and 3 u listed are very unlikely.

Firstly, the Congress is the party more likely to support some other party and pull the plug in a year (Deve Gowda, Gujral) than the BJP. We have a strong leader in our party, and so our position is clearly that it is either Advani or the opposition benches for us. I can confidently rule out 2 & 3.

Secondly and more importantly, any non-BJP non-Congress prime minister will have to by definition have the left support in government. That would make it untenable for the BJP to support even from outside. But the outcome of a 3rd front prime minister is very possible, with Congress support from outside and the government falling in a year.

If Advaniji is able to cobble together the alliance and make it to the PMs chair, I can see no reason why it would be an unstable government, and more importantly, if it is an unstable govt, why it would necessarily hurt us. The people who will join us as allies (TDP, AIADMK, BJD in all probability) already know the BJP and what they are getting into, so they probably will not pull out in a hurry as long as they are as usual placated with ministerial posts and special attention to their states. The only thing, we need to take extra care that no communal tensions flare up anywhere - then we would be handing the PM post to Rahul on a platter. Our opponents will actively work to make tensions flare up and then blame us.

We might see a repeat of 1998 - clearly a mandate for the BJP, but losing the confidence vote very narrowly. In that case, I would prefer mid term elections with Advani still as PM candidate. The people of the country tend to affirm a recent mandate (which is why Congress can be expected to do well in Delhi and Rajasthan, and we can expect to do well in MP and Chattisgarh). Like in 1999, we would come back with a better majority. But if the govt lasts for 2-3 years and then falls i.e. around 2012, then its Modi's time. I anyway don't think Rahul Gandhi will have the guts to jump in with the PM aspiration for a mid term poll before 2012 atleast, he is clearly eyeing only 2014.

Ofcourse in 2014, its already Modi vs Rahul. While I greatly hope Advaniji wins this time, that would actually make it easier for Rahul in 2014. We would be fighting anti-incumbency. If the Congress wins this time, Rahul will be facing 10 years of anti incumbency in 2014. This is why Rahul's "thinking about 15 years" comment makes sense. The Congress losing this time makes his path to the PMs post easier.

But what the BJP should take up at a war footing is increasing the base in TN, Kerala, WB so that in 2014 we atleast have significant vote share if not seats. With vote share will come alliances and with alliances will come seats. We should aim at atleast a 8% voteshare in these 3 states by the next assembly elections. We at present have about 5% in Kerala, 2% in TN and 2% in WB.

We also need to be careful about our existing allies. We need to increase our base in Orissa, if the BJD does not return after the elections, and in Bihar, where signs from the JDU are ominous. Just in case the alliances breaks, we should be able to fight on our own and win on our own.

If situations 4 or 5 occur, we would have anyway lost, so it doesnt really matter. However, I don't think the Congress will withdraw in a hurry from a 3rd front alliance. In 1996, we had Congress leaders with Prime Ministerial Ambitions (non-Gandhi family suprisingly), so the Congress was pulling everyone down. Like I said, I don't expect Rahul to step up till 2012, he is concentrating on building the party base in UP, Bihar etc so that he can be in a commanding position to get allies to support him as PM in 2014.

parasuram81 said...

Hi Swapanda

I think this means two things.One,Congress is in serious trouble even in reaching 100 and more ominously two,Rahul is trying to instill a sense of complacency into BJP knowing well that they ten dot build castles in the air..so I believe BJP should sustain its energy levels and stretch it to 180-185 or else even JDU and so called secular allies will leave them,esp given that Nitish was showering praises on Left and its polices yesterday..so I think winner takes it all,our aim is to reach an impregnable lead over Congress and every other party would be willing to come forward..But otherwise as someone here said I wont be surprised if there is a huge missionary push to make sure Roman empire stays intact in India,so much at stakes for them..remember how YSR from A.P funded the MPs for the July trust vote routed thru foreign sources..

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Congress deliberately wants to lose this election so that the path becomes clear for Rahul Gandhi in 2014 after a break of 5 years.

( If on the other hand they come back to power, it would be highly unlikely that the country will give the UPA 3 consecutive terms, in which case R. Gandhi will have to wait 10 years to become PM. )

Also if you notice, Sonia Gandhi hardly seems to be campaigning, compared to the leaders of other parties.

mimi said...

Hi Swapan,

I wonder what your views are on how CNN IBN has been presenting glowing tributes to the PM and his family through the 'Singh Parivar' show that they did - whose timing was very suspiciously synced with the 3rd phase of polling. The Advani Parivar show on the other hand was so shoddily put together that one wonders if CNN IBN too doesn't want to give MR. Advani the privilege of being a PM candidate, taking a cue from the Congress.

Anonymous said...

Hi Swapan,
I wrote for last 2 days regarding coastral karnataka and why BJP is doing very well in Karnataka. Now I will write of all the 3 phases completed. I did a quick calculation from a conservative side and it shows NDA already reaching figure of around 180 of last loksabha. Here is the breakup.
Guajarath - 20 (Can go upto 22)
Bihar - 28 ( Can goupto 30)
Karnataka - 22 (Can goupto 24)
Madhyapradesh - 22( can goup to 25Uma's votes have gone to BJP)
Chattisgarh - 9
Jharkhand -10 (Including Namdhari as independent)
Maharashtra - 30 (May go slightly higher)
UP - 14 (6-7 in I phase, 2 in second and 5 in third phase)
Assam - 10
Jammu - 1( + 1 possible thru Bhim Singh in Udhampur)
Goa - 1( South Goa also to BJP possible due congress infighting)
Andhra - 3 (Secunderabad certain,
Malkajgiri, Chavella, Adilabad, Karminagar etc)
Rest of NorthEast - 4 (Including NCP in Megalaya, BJP in Arunachal Pradesh)
Bengal - 1 (Darjeeling)
Orissa - 3 (5 possible)

Totally 178 - Can reach around 190 if figures work out higher. A possibility.


Now for the next 2 phases

Rajasthan - 14 possible (10 certain )
Haryana - 4 ( Including one for Bhajan Lal's party)
Himachal Pradesh - 3
Uttarakhand - 4
Delhi - 4( I will give 4 to BJP)
Uttarpradesh - 15 (This will be the strongest region due to alliance with LokDal and Varun factor)
Punjab+Chandigarh - 7
Bengal - 2 (Dumdum, Krishnanagar)
Tamilnadu - 2(Kanyakumari, Ramnathapuram)
Bihar - 2

178 + 57 = 235

Possible allies
TRS - 6
BJD - 7 (Cannot go with congress)
Trinamool - 10

Totally - 258.

Once this happens any combination
of Telugu Desam or AIADMK Or BSP should do.

Is it the reason market went up by 6 percent today.

Singh said...

Rejoice friends! Rahul Gandhi officially throws in the towel!!

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/rahul-reaches-out-to-left-says-cong-open-to-tieups/91816-37.html

When the Congress bloodline themselves stoops to the level of requesting the left for support, we know that they are in dire straits.

Also, I am sure you all noticed the laughable statement coming out of a frustrated Congress leader Rahul. He said the NDA doesnt exist and we have no allies!! Coming from the guys who do not have a national alliance and their most important allies - NCP, RJD, SP, LJP are all saying that MMS is not their PM candidate. We are fighting this election as the NDA alliance and all our allies have unequivocally endorsed Advani for PM. Not even one word of revolt has been raised against Advani's candidature. (Its only the media created 'revolt' within our party about Modi for PM). The UPA itself has ceased to exist. Comical statement from the guy who might be our PM in 5 years....lets hope that doesn't happen.

But just because Rahul has thrown in the towel, we should not get complacent. Like some other people pointed out, this might be a ploy to encourage complacency, a well established weakness of the BJP. The toughest 2 phases are yet to come. The BJP is on the back foot in Rajasthan and Delhi. We should try and stem losses in Rajasthan and Punjab, and try to make gains in Delhi. Only if the NDA reaches 220 can we be sure of Advani as PM.

Jai Hind

Incognito said...

argh! Incessant contention of the BJP allying with BSP by ppl is deplorable; as it is both
improbable and undesirable.

The most desirable post-16th-of-May scenario: BJP with absolute majority. The Third(which has ex-NDA compatriots) and Fourth Front's redundantly over-ambition of an 'anything but BJP' fantasy might emphasise on self-reliance for the BJP.

As far as Congress voluntarily sitting out, seems an exaggeration, given Rahul's extended campaigning; Remember:Camping out with villagers, labouring for the cameras, etc. In my opinion Congress is hoping for a favourable 2004-like outcome.

BENGAL UNDER ATTACK said...

Interesting that Rahul Gandhi gave clear signals of working with the Left parties in the post-poll scenario, expressing confidence that the Communists would accept Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister and a Congress-led government.

Nitish Kumar "struts" around like a pretty woman in whose swayambar two very eligible bachelors are vying for attention !

The circus begins before the show :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think the dynasty can live without power. If you haven't seen today, the dynasty Prince is already stooping low. He is praising TDP (Naidu) and Nistish Kumar. In collusion with him, the corrupt and crony media all keep asking Nitish again and again and again if he is going to join UPA. In spite of saying NO 100 times, the unscrupulous media keeps begging him and looking for any remote word he or his party member (any member) that they can interpret it as controversial. The desperation seems to be growing day by day. I hope BJP workers don't take anything for granted and bury the CON party in the last 2 phases. The ITALIAN brigade is desperate.

Anonymous said...

BJP must not get desperate, they have waited long but not long enough. A better strategy would be to strengthen their base in states and develop regional leaders like Shivraj Chauhan, Raman Singh, and BS Yedyurappa, the right place at the center will follow.

sarathy.amudhan said...

Swapanda,
I cannot understand what pappu has uttered that the media is going gaga over him.It is ridiculous to see the media fawning over the Ghandhy brats and going into raptures over the clans utterances. The clan has not been able to bring about any development in their pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli.First let them prove that they are capable before they are pitch forked to lead the country. It is pathetic to see the media trying to pass of the incoherent utterings as pearls of wisdom. While the media has joined the chorus and is chanting that the emperor has new clothes the child (people ) will silently convey that the emperor is naked through the ballot.
It is clear that Cong is on its back foot and can clearly see the writing on the wall.
I know when the media will stop acting as Chamchas. Post May 16 you will not find them on Cong Band wagon.

Arvind said...

BJP plus BSP is amuch better combination than Congress plus their cronies (which will always include the Left) anytime anyday. Also BJP plus BSP will account for most of the Hindu votes in totality. So there will hardly be any appeasement.

Arvind said...

NDA alone aint gonna get a majority. So it will have to be either Jaya or Maya (I don't know who is worse but I don't think either of them is that terrible compared to Third Front or Left for the country) or maybe BOTH!! Politics is the art of the possible. BJP should learn to do it if it wants to be taken seriously and become a permanent fixture in Indian politics otherwise it will swept to the dustbin of history.

Arvind said...

Sensex seems to be on boosters lately. Has the market already gotten the memo that NDA will be in the driver's seat next term?

Know the verity said...

My prediction of BJP' seats excluding NDA is :

Gujarat - 17 (Can go up to 19)
Bihar - 8 ( Can go up to 10)
Karnataka - 17 (Can go up to 19)
Madhyapradesh - 17( can goup to 20)
Chattisgarh - 8
Jharkhand - 9 (Including Namdhari as independent)
Maharashtra - 12 (May go slightly higher)
UP - 18 (18 is total seats, might go slightly up if rumors of BJP gaining in UP is to be believe however I'm still not sure)
Assam - 5 (might be 6 also)
Jammu - 1( + 1 possible thru Bhim Singh in Udhampur)
Goa - 0
Andhra - 0 (Secunderabad certain,
Malkajgiri, Chavella, Adilabad, Karminagar etc)
Rest of NorthEast - 1 (Including NCP in Megalaya, BJP in Arunachal Pradesh)
Bengal - 1 (Darjeeling)
Orissa - 2 (5 possible)
Delhi - 2
Rajasthan - 12
Punjab - 1 (might be two also)
----------------------------
So the possible tally is 130 seats(BJP). I know there is good chance of it going upward(130-145). But still we shouldn't be complacent till the election is over. We r notorious for over confidence and complacency u know. I gave my estimate b'coz the game isn't finish and I don't want another feel good syndrome affecting our voters, workers et al. Our first aim should be to emerge as largest party. So that tedious Pratibha Patil..compelled to invite us. I still feel Congress might emerge as the largest party. Wish I'm wrong. lolz