THE ALLIANCE puzzle is yet to be solved, the much talked about the common minimum programme is only half done, and the poll campaign theme and slogan are far from final. Even as the Election Commission announced the Lok Sabha poll schedule on Sunday, the Congress, which leads the Opposition block, is yet to put together the nuts and bolts of electioneering.
The Opposition had appeared to have gained an upper hand — perhaps for the first time since 2014 — in the immediate aftermath of the BJP’s defeat in the assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. But the Pulwama terror attack and Balakot air strike have derailed its momentum.
While the BJP is seeking to set a nationalistic discourse, the Congress is trying to bring the focus back on the Rafale deal, bank fraud cases, bread-and-butter issues like the job and agrarian crisis, and governance-related problems.
Top Congress leaders said the party’s campaign would take final shape in the next ten days or so. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) is meeting in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. Party leaders said they would officially blow the poll bugle from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.
But alliance-building is proving to be a difficult task. The seat-sharing arrangement with the NCP and other parties in Maharashtra, JD(S) in Karnataka, RJD in Bihar, and CPI(M) in West Bengal is yet to be finalised.
On the other hand, the BJP has already announced its seat-sharing pact with Shiv Sena in Maharasthra and JD(U) in Bihar.
Tamil Nadu, perhaps, is the only state where the Opposition seat-sharing arrangement is in place. With the BJP tying up with the AIADMK, the battlelines are clearly drawn there. The Congress’s seat-sharing pact with the JMM in Jharkhand too has been decided.
In Delhi, there is still confusion on whether the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will enter into an alliance.
In West Bengal, the Congress-CPM tactical understanding is yet to take shape. The CPM has announced its candidates in both its sitting seats — Raiganj and Murshidabad — which were earlier claimed by the Congress. CPM sources said the Congress would not contest in both these seats and, in return, the CPM would not field candidates in the Congress’s four sitting seats.
In Uttar Pradesh, the SP and BSP have announced a seat-sharing arrangement, despite much talk about Opposition unity. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which had contributed the most numerically to the Congress both in 2004 and 2009, the party has decided to go alone. The ruling TDP too has signalled the same, setting the stage for a four-cornered battle involving the YSRCP and BJP.
However, soon after the EC announced the poll schedule on Sunday, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and AICC general secretary K C Venugopal told reporters that “the Congress and Opposition are united and we are very much confident that we will defeat the Modi government.”
“This government has failed to deliver its promises, including depositing Rs 15 lakh in the bank accounts of the people of India, delivering jobs to the youth, providing security to women, increasing the income of farmers… in all sectors, the Modi government has failed terribly. The government is desperately trying to cover up its failures through fake propaganda and event management,” Venugopal said at the party’s press conference.
The Congress, he said, would expose the government’s failure and put forward its idea of a ‘new India’. “The party will highlight its vision and mission through the public meetings of Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders and a vigorous campaign method. The time for change is here. On May 23, the people of the country will choose a new government,” he said.
Gehlot said the EC wanted to announce the schedule on March 4, but “was forced to defer announcement of the schedule till Modi completes his inauguration and foundation stone laying spree”.
“The First Law of Democracy: what goes up must come down. Those who forget this do so at their peril. As we celebrate our democracy, let us vote for hope and unity. We promise to work for the poor and our farmers and empower our youth and women,” tweeted SP leader Akhilesh Yadav.
Welcoming the EC’s announcement, BSP leader Mayawati tweeted: “Anti-poor & pro-capitalist Modi govt functioning disturbed peace & tranquillity, causing unrest & anger among masses. India’s 130 crore peace-loving people certainly deserve a better govt.”