Will we see RaGa 2.0?

Updated: Dec 17, 2018, 08:01 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Buoyed by his party's 3-state win, Cong president faces real challenge putting together a multi-dimensional cast and crew for 2019

Dharmendra JoreIf Rahul Gandhi's superlative performance against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recent state elections is being described as RaGa 1.0, will he give us a sequel - RaGa 2.0 – in the coming April-May polls? Will the summer of 2019 bring the party president the best days of his political life?

It's not impossible. Gandhi should be able to realise his dream only after meeting challenges that the recent developments have thrown to him. His acceptability within Congress and outside has taken a quantum leap. But some non-BJP parties don't see a sweeping victory for him in the recent elections. They endorse the view that it was luck that ditched the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, and it was the BJP that defeated itself in Rajasthan. Getting them on board is the next big task.

Gandhi has re-fabricated the Congress with an agreeable mix of the old and young. The balancing act has reflected in organisational changes and resulted in positive gains in some states. The selection of the chief ministers (CM) of the three states carried a well-crafted strategy forward. Henceforth, he needs to work in mission-mode, especially where his party has long lost a public space to garner a foothold ahead of the big battle.

Raising a band
Gandhi needs a wider acceptance of his strategic importance (as a leader) in the larger scheme that could possibly throw the BJP out of the Centre, by reducing its Lok Sabha seats in the states where it found a solid foundation in 2014. Another aspect will be to stop BJP in the states where it has been cutting influential regional parties to size. Gandhi's Congress, its offshoots like Trinamool and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Bahujanwadis, Samajwadis and the Janata Dals should form a tamper-proof pact. The leftists who actually highlighted the farmers' unrest through massive agitations have proved yet again, to be the best friends of the Congress. The Left should be convinced to share power this time around.

Gandhi can succeed only if he has a team in place with him as a lead vocalist, with backing vocalists, and accompanying musicians who do not hit a discordant note. The band, if built successfully in the short time that Gandhi is left with, can shake the BJP. Gandhi has choices aplenty to choose friends from. Some are very optimistic on joining hands with Congress, but some have their own goals in sight. Personal ambitions of some leaders may play foul when things come to assessing Gandhi's prospects as prime ministerial candidate in a pre-poll alliance. Trinamool's Mamata Banerjee and BSP's Mayawati should throw the spanner into the works that a potential alliance is expected to be executed in the 2019 polls.

Addressing own audience
Kingpin allies leave Gandhi with the option in which he can focus more on his party to get commanding numbers in the Lok Sabha. But is it possible for the party that is a weakling in many states? It proved lucky for the party before the general elections that Assembly polls were held in three states where a two-party system gave it a winner's traction. MP's cliff-hanger should remain a concern because the Congress hasn't got a decisive majority that can guarantee a trouble-free full term.

Rajasthan's voters pushed the BJP closer to the Congress' strength. However, Chhattisgarh put the Congress in power. Euphoria after 2014's dismay has made Congress as exciting as it was in its heydays. Post-win dramas unfolded in the faction-infested party. It prompted Gandhi to advice patience even as he struggled to pick suitable men for the CMOs. What is more demanding for Gandhi is a state of affairs in the regions that his party had lost. The grand old party's presence in UP, Bihar, Andhra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and West Bengal is pathetic in terms of number of elected representatives. These states together stand for almost half of Parliament's total strength. Rejuvenating the Congress units here shouldn't be impossible in view of Gandhi's resurgence. With just three months to go for general elections, RaGa, unlike the past, has his hands full.

editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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