Ever since the idea of uniting to bring down the Modi led NDA Government became an expressed reality, the Congress has behaved as though the mobilisation will take place under its leadership, with Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate. This mindset has created a situation where it has failed to negotiate acceptable pacts with any of the potential allies. This unconscious arrogance has put off almost all the tall leaders in the Opposition and resulted in the marginalisation of the party in the states where regional parties have held sway.
This will undoubtedly come as a blow to the fortunes of the Congress and the hopes of defeating the BJP, but in the long run, it will be beneficial to democracy. The opposition in India represents a large variety of ideologies and regional aspirations. It cannot be expected to unite just for the purpose of defeating the incumbent in New Delhi, because the question arises: then what? Coalition governments have had a chequered past in India, resulting in the hugely compromised experience of Manmohan Singh during the UPA years. It would be much better if there is issue based unity in the Lok Sabha, in accordance with the ideological inclinations of the parties. It is very much possible that a party may like to support the government on one issue, and the opposition, on another. It would not only make governance more inclusive and representative, but also lead to effective action.
The dynastic politics of the Congress has rendered it almost non-existent in many states, as potential leaders have preferred to go their own way. The SP-BSP combine has communicated exactly this message in UP, as it feels the Congress does not have enough votes to take a share of the seats being contested. In Delhi, if the Congress were to make a deal with AAP, it would be an acknowledgement that Kejriwal is the real leader of the state. The two parties draw on the same slice of the electorate and, unless they merge, they are always in danger of losing voters to the other. It will give the BJP an advantage, but at least keep the Congress afloat as an entity. Similar problems are being faced in Bihar, West Bengal and elsewhere.
For the time being, at least, the ‘third front’ parties should gain prominence in the Lok Sabha so that they can pursue federal issues with the vigour required, instead of just being part of a power struggle at the Centre. The nation’s progress cannot be held hostage by the sense of entitlement harboured by a few.