It may not seem so to the common person, struggling to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, but the pressure is already on for Uttarakhand’s next assembly election. The politicians are feeling it very strongly. The Congress, in particular, does not wish to give the ruling BJP anything like an unassailable lead. This is specially because newbie Aam Aadmi Party is snapping at its heels. So, regardless of the dangers involved in congregating and holding rallies, the Congress has planned protests and demonstrations to chide the government for its ‘many’ failures. Ironically, these include management of the pandemic, which its leaders seem willing to invite, particularly dangerous as so many of them are quite geriatric.
This is not to say there are not issues worth taking up that could fire the public imagination. Unfortunately, the Congress seems more inspired by Rahul Gandhi’s obsession with PM Modi rather than the reality on the ground. It could take a cue from AAP’s last campaign in Delhi, when it meticulously avoided not just mentioning Modi, but even indirectly criticising his policies. This provided the right perspective on a state level election for the voters, who were provided an unstated compact that the Delhi Government would not take on the Centre the way it did earlier. So it is that India today sees a much mellowed Kejriwal.
It would help the Congress if it listened to the people instead of trying to, itself, set the agenda. There are issues – such as the creation of the Devasthanam Board – that could pick up momentum. Thus far, the protests by the shrine priests are being largely ignored by the media, but their persistence will certainly get noticed. There have, indeed, been failures in management of the pandemic, becoming more visible as the numbers rise, but the Congress will have to present itself as not just more responsible, but also better prepared to take it on. This will not be possible if its leaders violate the protocols. It hopes to raise the unemployment issue, but it will have to present alternative models that work, not just offer giveaways of the kind proposed in its manifesto before the last general election. It will also have to overcome the deep factionalism that exists within – its top leaders will need to share a platform more often. Despite the seeming urgency, there is still time to go and much can be done. Good that it has begun now.