I gave you a political thriller last week which was substantiated when all the major political actors in India went public. I had promised you part two of the thriller, so here goes.
Mamata Banerjee, three time chief minister of West Bengal and India’s leading agitprop leader, had a strategic outburst in Mumbai, where she targeted the Congress party. Her anger was directed at former Congress president Rahul Gandhi in particular and the Congress party in general.
She attacked Gandhi for his peripatetic foreign jaunts, saying you couldn’t do politics in India when you spent all your time abroad. Banerjee said, “there was no United Progressive Alliance (UPA — centre-left political alliance of predominantly liberal political parties in India). And, what could she do if the Congress party was not ready to fight the ruling BJP."
The very next day Prashant Kishor, her current political confidant and headhunter, attacked the Congress and Rahul Gandhi in a tweet, saying, “the idea and the space represents is vital for a strong opposition. But, Congress leadership is not the divine right of an individual especially when the party has lost more than 90 per cent elections in the last ten years. Let opposition leadership be decided democratically”.
Considering that PK was in talks with the very same leadership to join the Congress, it seemed the tweet of a strategist, spurned by the Gandhi family.
Congress will continue to matter
That was what the Congress party said in a sharp reaction to PK’s salvo. And, then went on the attack him in the preferred battle field — Twitter. But, while PK may claim to be ideology agnostic or a mercenary in the market place of political ideas, can any top political player really be non aligned? Specially when what you market is so ideologically driven.
Can you really sell brand Hindutva one day and the secular idea of India the very next day without even a public reckoning? Ideas have meaning. And, huge consequences on the check board of politics where citizens have to live with a partisan ideology.
While PK has been a smooth operator, it is time that he answered some basic questions. Kishor has previously been close to Narendra Modi (when Modi was Gujarat CM and PK was the strategist of candidate Modi for PM).
Now as he helms 'Project Banerjee for PM' he owes some answers as he asks the Congress the real uncomfortable questions.
Limitations of Banerjee for PM
The limitations of Banerjee for PM were immediately out the next day when the Shiv Sena, a Congress ally in the Maharashtra government, immediately poured cold water on the West Bengal CM’s idea of isolating the Congress in the opposition space. The Sena went public saying no real opposition was possible without the Congress party.
The Sena took in account the fact that Congress still commands a 20 per cent vote share in India and has a pan India standing and takes on the BJP alone in nearly 200 seats.
However much the regional leaders nurse PM dreams, reality cannot be wished away. And, making Rahul Gandhi the punching bag is a limited view of what ails the Congress today. Gandhi is the one consistent leader who has been taking on BJP ideologically and the one leader in India who will not do any deals with the ruling party.
The Congress is currently a party which is riven with a terrible organisational lethargy and a cadre looking for leadership and ideas. In many states the Congress organisation has simply folded up. This, when it is up against a BJP which has a formidable organisation and massive funds.
Yes, funds which no leader in India talks about publicly but which drive the country’s politics. The Congress is battling the BJP, which is possibly one of the world’s richest political parties.
The one leader who understands what really drives politics — Sharad Pawar — who had earlier compared the Congress party to a zamindar (landlord) dreaming about his lost lands, also shot down Banerjee’s trial balloon of leading the opposition, saying the Congress had to be part of any meaningful opposition.
What will Banerjee and PK do next? Watch this space.