Towards 2019 — on Congress plenary

As president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi seems to be taking on a more aggressive avatar, attacking the BJP for its divisive ideology and its failings on the governance front. But at the Congress plenary in Delhi, he had little to say by way of presenting an alternative vision, other than claiming for his party the space given up by the BJP. Most of his speech was a tirade against the party and its two main leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Mr. Modi was linked to corruption with a reference to the bank scam, and Mr. Shah to murder with a reference to the Sohrabuddin encounter killing. To the BJP’s quest for absolute power, Mr. Gandhi posited the Congress’s fight for truth. He contrasted the BJP’s commitment to an organisation (the RSS) with the Congress’s voice for the entire nation. But mere aggression is not enough and such words will ring inevitably hollow in the absence of a clear and granular action plan. Even the resolutions passed at the plenary had little use for particulars. The party’s economic resolution faintly echoed Karl Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach: “We have heard the clamour for change. It is now time for change.” There was no point beyond this. The resolution on agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation seemed more like a budget proposal, the highlight being a 5% cess on the richest 1% to help the poor. The party is clearly seeking the middle ground: equal economic opportunities for all without, however, instilling the fear of tax terrorism or overbearing regulation. So, fostering of business confidence and rewarding of risk-taking were mentioned in the same breath as promoting employment and security. The relevance of the public sector in critical areas such as defence, transportation and financial services was noted, while resolving to win back economic freedom for India’s entrepreneurs. Couched in such vague generalities, there is little to separate the Congress’s policies from those of the BJP.

If the economic resolution took the middle path, the political resolution was open-ended with a call for a “pragmatic approach of working with like-minded parties and evolving a common workable programme to defeat the BJP-RSS in 2019”. Although the Congress will undoubtedly be the single largest party in any anti-BJP alliance, it will have to play the role of a very junior partner in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In States such as Gujarat and Karnataka where it is a dominant party, it needs the help of smaller allies. Besides allies, the party will need post-poll backing from the Left, however reduced in numbers, to piece together a coalition against the BJP. A common workable programme will thus have to be forged with parties with very different orientations. In this context, the vague generalisations are understandable, but will they find favour with voters?


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 3:37:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/towards-2019/article23295779.ece

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