The only way Bhishma could be brought low was for Arjun to hide behind Shikhandi, a man who used to be a woman. Analogies are never perfect and the Congress may think of Narendra Modi (NM) as Duryodhana rather than Bhishma, a slot perhaps Advani feels is his. But there is no doubt that in the upcoming election, as in the Mahabharata fought at Kurukshetra, the objective is the same — occupying the throne at Delhi.
The Congress has now given up any hope of winning. The aim now is Anyone But Modi (ABM). As far as the Congress is concerned, the BJP is welcome to win the election but not get too many seats. The prayer is that the BJP gets no more than around 170. Then they would need many coalition partners and in that case the Congress believes NM is unlikely to attract many parties and will be displaced by someone more “secular” — the favourite being Advani, who will be forgiven the Babri Masjid episode, 2002 being worse than 1992.
This is the dream scenario for the Congress. But how to realise it? The anointing of Rahul Gandhi (RG) is hardly likely to change much as he has not delivered the goods in the previous elections. In any case, it is too late to launch an RG wave. Experts are busy making projections of the worst ever Congress performance, relying on the 1977 and 1998 results. The tally would reach three digits if the Congress is lucky, 80 being more likely. The Congress needs many more partners than NM would, if it is to realise its ABM dream. That is why the Congress has been frantically making alliances with Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, hoping Mayawati would smile at them and Nitish would come on board when the call came after the election to gang together to stop NM. All the anti-BJP parties are to gang up for ABM.
The BJP election machine had gone into full gear long before the Congress woke up, and they are confident that 200-230 seats are within sight. They hope that once the BJP is the largest single party, coalition partners will flock to it and the NDA will form the government. Then NM’s dream of Congress Mukta Bharat (CMB) will be realised.
This scenario has been shaken by the arrival of AAP. ABM enthusiasts are beside themselves with joy. Not all of them like AAP. The party, they complain, is noisy, alarming in its economics, too much in love with referendums, with what looks like a dictatorial leader and many other issues. But AAP is the sole weapon left whose effectiveness is untried. Thus projections are being made about its seats. As the Congress seat estimates are going down as in a Dutch auction, AAP is being fancied to win enough seats to deprive NM of his dream of speaking from the Red Fort on August 15, 2014.
How many seats does AAP have to win to realise the ABM dream? Of the 60 extra urban seats which the Congress won in 2009, the BJP was hoping to win a large majority — say 45. Now AAP could win 30 seats and the BJP the rest, squeezing the Congress out completely. But then AAP would need to win another 30 seats or more to get the BJP down from its own best estimate of 230. How likely is that?
Let us take a wild card scenario. Suppose AAP gets 100, more than the Congress, which may then end up with 80 as the third largest party (saving RG the horrible prospect of being Leader of the Opposition and having to attend the Lok Sabha regularly). Together, AAP and the Congress may get as many as the BJP in this wild card situation. The BJP will be invited by the President to form the government. At that stage, if NM fails to attract enough partners, we may get the ABM scenario.
Perhaps Jayalalithaa would be the PM with her 35-plus seats or may be Advani, spreading joy to all secularists.
If so, NM should not despair. He should talk to Manmohan Singh, who will tell him that it is not being PM which confers power. NM can be leader of the coalition. That is where power resides.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines