barely increased — by 1.5 percent.
Karnataka holds important lessons for
the Congress party — that it is possible for
a party to win if it can hang onto its social
coalition and also have political alliances
with regional parties.
“All is not lost for the Congress,” says a
senior Congress party leader. “We may be
looking miserable sitting in Delhi due to all
the corruption scandals blamed on us, but
election results can surprise many if we get
a few things right.”
Getting a few things right for the
Congress party would mean sorting out the
mess in Andhra Pradesh, and finding an
alliance partner in Tamil Nadu. At the
moment, the Congress party strategy in
both these important states looks in tatters.
The Congress party got 33 seats from AP
and also had the benefit of major support
from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led
coalition in Tamil Nadu.
Most optimistic estimates from AP give
the Congress party barely three to five
seats. The party, in the absence of an ally,
could draw a big blank from Tamil Nadu.
AP could be fixed, if the Congress party
leadership is to be believed. There is a proposal to remove Chief Minister Kiran
Kumar Reddy, a political lightweight, and
replace him with former chief minister
Chenna Reddy’s son, Shashi Reddy, who
heads the National Disaster Management
Authority in Delhi. The argument is that
appointing someone from Telangana would
take the wind out of the movement.
Reddy may be a good man, but it would
be expecting too much from him to neuter
a movement that has been raging for so
long and has taken so many lives. The
Congress party leadership also believes in
the fact that the jailed leader of YSR
Congress would eventually come around to
supporting the Congress — even in a post-poll scenario.
The BJP has smelt an opportunity in AP,
and Modi plans to hold a massive rally in
Hyderabad to build on his growing support
base. Some disgruntled Congress party
members of Parliament are also in talks
with the BJP leadership and they may join
the party during the rally. The BJP might
also announce its support to the formation
of Telangana — to sow further confusion in
the minds of the Telangana Rashtriya
Samithi, which has many members from
the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in
What this means is that the Congress
party has a very small window in fixing AP
before regional outfits in that state look at
In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister J
Jayalalitha has made it clear that her All
India Anna DMK will contest all the seats.
After breaking its alliance with the
Congress party, the DMK has not revealed
its mind about which way it will go.
Traditionally, any Dravidian party manages
to edge out the other when it has an
alliance with the Congress party.
In recent times, the Congress party has
looked emaciated and clueless. It is hoping
that the DMK will eventually ally with it,
but is also stared at by the prospects of
going it alone with the likes of Vijayakanth
and a few smaller parties. Congress
before the war
Mulayam Singh Yadav
General Secretary Rahul Gandhi’s dream to
have the party fight elections alone from
the southern state may happen quite by
Without an ally, the Congress party’s
prospects in Tamil Nadu look very dismal.
Congress party leaders think that Modi’s
emergence will bring about a major shake-
up in the way regional parties and people
countenance national parties. Parties like
the Janata Dal-United may part ways from
the BJP if they continue to find Modi’s rise
uncomfortable, but a party like Lalu Prasad
Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal may align
with the Congress party. Bihar may witness
new political permutations as social con-
stituencies force political parties to respond
to fast-changing realities.
The Congress party leadership, based on
dubious surveys, believes minorities will
rally around all over the country to stop the
BJP from coming to power. They think that
the 2004 election results will repeat itself
in terms of how the Muslim vote returned
to the Congress party in a big way to leave
BJP a close second. For the sake of record,
the BJP from a high of 24 percent in 1999
had slipped to 18-odd percent vote in 2009.
The Congress party believes that the support of the minorities will be a big plus for
them all over the country. These expectations are flawed and simplistic and do little
credit to those who have been strategizing
for the party for years.
The truth is that the minorities seldom
vote in isolation and like to ride on some
other castes or social constituencies — for
reason of protection, as well as for a simple
desire to be on the winning side.
No caste or community likes to be on the
losing side, as it has terrible implications
on the ground. And these are worse for the
minorities, poor and marginalized.
Traditionally, these were the bedrock of the
Congress party’s support, but its economic
and social policies had alienated them. The
2009 elections had proved to the Congress
party that they could fight anti-incumben-cy by initiating policies that give money
directly in the hands of the people.
If in 2009 it was the National Rural
Employment Guarantee Act and farmer
loan-waiver scheme, this time around they
are hoping that the food security bill and
direct cash transfer can do the magic for
The Congress party won 22 seats from
UP when no one really expected it. All
their political alliances plus their attempts
to project Rahul Gandhi as the counterpoint to Modi will depend on what they can
tell the masses in terms of how they have
made their lives better.
Congress party leaders believe that harping on corruption and governance issues
does not make much difference when
money has reached the marginalized and
they feel that life is not so bad.
The test of many of these postulates
would be the coming assembly elections in
November, where Modi will try to display
his organizational abilities to show that he
has it in him to turn the corner for his
party. If he manages to win all the five
assemblies, then there will be fewer people
to dispute his ability to win an election in
The Congress party’s real test will be to
stop him and the BJP from achieving this
short-term objective, so that it remains relevant when the parliamentary elections
take place in 2014. They may be helped by
the growing trend amongst regional parties
to stay out of any alliance with any national party.
If Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, Mamata
Banrejee’s Trinamool Congress, Naveen
Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, Jayalalitha’s
AIADMK, Mulayam Singh’s SP and
Mayawati’s BSP stay away from the big parties, then it will be a strange post-poll scenario that we will be witnessing — where
big money bags will step in to cobble the
If that happens, it will devalue not only
India’s oldest dynasty, but put a spoke in