Rahul allying with Akhilesh for UP polls will fully hit Modi in 2019

Aakash Mehrotra
Aakash MehrotraFeb 14, 2017 | 15:55

Rahul allying with Akhilesh for UP polls will fully hit Modi in 2019

The joint appearance of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav has become more common and significant in terms of optics and substance. The camaraderie shared by these two young scions has brought some warmth on the table, a rare distraction from the vintage politics of the Hindi heartland.

Repeated efforts by Rahul and senior Congressmen to present this alliance to be moving beyond 2017, have made Congress’s strategy loud and clear. With the alliance, Rahul has sent a bigger message that Congress is willing to forge deeper ties with non-NDA parties for 2019.

Alliance with the Samajwadi Party could be its latest move, but Congress has made friendly overtures before in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. In all these alliances, it has shown it is ready to do business as a junior partner, in its attempt to survive and sustain.

Of late, the party has made some significant political manoeuvres, some going beyond alliances. The idea of mahagathbandan in Bihar and dire attempts to make it possible and now sustain it on the ground, sharing stage with Mamata Banerjee over the demonetisation row, friendly visits to Jayalalithaa in hospital and later attending her funeral, and on similar lines to Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu - and now the active role in an SP-INC alliance - is all part of the script to build Congress, with support from others. These are plausible attempts to shed the past and shape the future.

With Congress not shying from warming up to its bête noire Shiv Sena to consolidate the actively developing anti-BJP space in Maharashtra, it has shown its eagerness for political manoeuvres to outwit the BJP. 

Together these states send over 250 MPs. A fractured mandate in 2019 would see a repeat of 1996 or 2004 when the Congress either supported or led a coalition government. Any possibility of keeping BJP out of power would be favoured by the Congress.

Sweet spot for Modi

Even after three years of more or less an ordinary governance record, the BJP has two things working for it: first, the unwavering support of the public for Narendra Modi and second, the TINA factor.

As one of my journalist friends put it: "You need a great deal of political wit to outdo a person who could sell a 15 lakh dream." Can Rahul alone do it? Even a preliminary assessment of their strengths would suggest Rahul is no match to Modi’s class of politics and oratory.

Probably he also knows he needs support to outdo Modi. And in 2019, in spite of all oratory, there would be enough anti-incumbency against unfulfilled tall promises. BJP reached its maximum best (winning all seats in major states) and even with slight anti-incumbency, the chances of it coming down increase. In most of these states, Congress is the only main opposition. With more support bases, it may best hold its fort from further crumbling down.

SP-INC alliance sets an example

Rahul Gandhi knows he needs support to outdo Narendra Modi. (Photo: Reuters) 

Alliances do win votes, Bihar has shown that and UP might. Before the 2019 elections happen, Congress would want to seal further strategic alliances in other states to avoid split of votes and challenge the Modi-led BJP. These can be in Jharkhand with JMM, in J&K with NC, in Karnataka with JD(S) and consolidate its alliance in Kerala and Maharashtra.

Rahul may not share a rapport like he shares with Akhilesh with leaders in other states, but political desperation would compel him to keep such alliances breathing. The situation may not be that good on the other side - BJP is losing alliances, it is on a rough patch with the Shiv Sena and other alliance partners Akali Dal and TDP will be facing anti-incumbency in 2019. The other partners like the LJP are too small to impact.

Thus in a situation where the BJP would likely lose some votes it won from the Congress and its alliances failing, these alliances will prove handy.

Rahul’s anti-Modi stance

There is a discernible pattern in Rahul's speeches; he is ditching the local context and attacking Modi. With this, he is not just attacking BJP in states, which are entirely dependent on Modi, but also trying to siege the anti-Modi space.

And in all of this, he is bettering Congress’s prospects of leading a coalition against the BJP in 2019. Modi has emerged a common enemy for all and even in states like Bengal and Kerala, where BJP is a marginal player and not being seen as making enough inroads, there is an untoward desperation among state leaders to keep Modi away.

They might not be led by Congress but will be more than willing to coalesce. And in all this, Congress has to appear both more accommodative and as giving direction to the formation of such a coalition.

Rahul has been combative, even bellicose and stridently critical of Modi’s policies. And he has lately shown that he can take the centre-stage. After failing to take a vigorous stance on demonetisation and in a way, leaving the space for Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata, he made a comeback and even went to the extent of attempting a joint opposition note on the matter.

And with Modi playing the lead in state elections, Rahul has been offered the opportunity to vanquish the PM by emerging as the principal personality who could galvanise the anti-BJP constituency.

Modi’s tough political stand and ability to win over the masses has triggered a political realignment, once bête noire are turning friends, new equations are being formed and signs of battle 2019 have started coming.

Modi has shown in Gujarat that he leaves no quarters for opposition. This would result in more informal tie-ups, more smiles and hugs in the Indian political landscape. And as for Congress, it has read its future and is busy roping in the breed of socialist leaders under its umbrella.

The alliance in UP is a strong making in that direction and if it yields positive results, the credibility of both the Congress and Rahul Gandhi will grow. Thus, in the coming two years, be assured of seeing an extension of this bromance.

Last updated: February 14, 2017 | 15:55
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