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Another Chance

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There was concern expressed at the time of the whopping 57 seat victory for the BJP in the Uttarakhand Assembly Elections and, again, when the Lok Sabha sweep took place, that the political structure in the state would become dismally monolithic. It was also hoped that the Congress would take measures to revive itself as the main opposition party. It has been seen, however, that it did nothing of the sort, with the old party factions continuing to retain their hold on the support base, completely stifling the possibility of new leadership emerging. Now, a compilation of student union election results from across the state reveals that, in most places where the BJP youth wing ABVP’s dominance has been challenged, it has been by rebels from within the organisation contesting as independents. Other student groups have also done well, with the Congress outfit, the NSUI, faring well only in some of its traditional bastions. Considering that many of the best political leaders have emerged from student union politics, this is not a good augury for the Congress. Now, there will be another opportunity to recover lost ground and build a base for healthy opposition – the Panchayat elections. This obviously involves the rural population, farmers, tribals and smaller caste groups and communities, who play a significant role in politics. Their issues are, in many ways, not similar to urban concerns and more immediate. Here again, there is a particular way of developing leadership that does not directly involve the BJP’s nationalism pitch. Caste and community leaders hold greater sway. Also, at this level, independents, too, play a greater role. Even a ‘disciplined’ party like the BJP of ten comes a cropper while reconciling rivalry between leaders and factions. This presents an excellent opportunity for the Congress to expand its footprint. Sadly, there is little indication of any use being made of the time provided by political exile. Lack of direction from the High Command in Delhi, with the ‘Old Guard’ having ousted the younger lot that had gathered around former President Rahul Gandhi, has meant local leaders spending more time looking over their shoulders than actually getting down to winning the public’s confidence. On display are the same old faces, many of them definitely over the hill, but with unmitigated greed for power. The people will naturally be looking for an alternative that can express their dissatisfactions. This is why the BJP has already declared its intention to contest on the basis of the Modi Government’s record on ‘nationalism’. There is enough local discontent to leverage – only a leadership dynamic enough to do so is required.