Congress candidates for Uttarakhand’s Lok Sabha seats are having a tough time explaining what the implications of the party’s manifesto are for the Armed Forces in the context of AFSPA, withdrawal of the sedition law, etc. This is so on the other side of the spectrum, with BJP’s star campaigner Narendra Modi describing the state as ‘Sainik Dham’.
The more the manifesto is examined, the more political pundits are perplexed about its intent. Does the party wish to take on the BJP, or is it seeking to encroach upon the territories of other opposition parties? Is it of the opinion that a few visits to the temples by its first family will convince the BJP’s conservative base about its suitability to serve as the party of governance? The entire thrust of the manifesto is being seen as radically left and anti an open economy. President Rahul Gandhi’s statements since its release have also been alarming, such as ‘taking the money from the rich to finance the NYAY scheme’. Does he really believe a Robin Hood avatar is what the voters are looking for at the present time? If he would care to look at the surveys, India is almost entirely an aspirational society willing to suffer pain for the sake of structured economic growth.
It would seem that Congress planners have given up hope of denting the BJP support base and are adopting a radical stance to win over the extreme elements of every other ideology – be it the Left, communal or casteist. If Muslim orthodoxy can be won over by seeming to be hardline on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and NRC, for the sake of not dividing the community vote other sections might feel compelled to abandon parties such as the SP, BSP, Trinamool, AAP, etc. They seem to be inspired by the more radical caste warriors such as Hardik Patel, Chandrashekhar Azad, Jignesh Mevani, etc., who are seen as success stories against the BJP. And, of course, to seem concerned about the ‘human rights’ of terrorist groups does win the sympathy of a phalanx of intellectuals, writers, academics and activists adept at playing the victim card. If the other opposition parties display some moderation and disagree, they will be declared ‘B’ teams of the BJP. The Congress has, earlier, paid a heavy price for patronising the Bhindranwales and Prabhakarans, now it seems to have gone the whole hog and aligned with just about anybody with a disruptive agenda. It is a very, very dangerous game to play.