Common front


Rahul Gandhi as president and his Congress leaders appear to be taking on a more aggressive posture, attacking the BJP for its divisive ideology and its failings on the governance front. Other party leaders have also been quite aggressive in taking on the regressive policies of the Saffron Brigade that is ruling the roost in the corridors of power in Delhi for almost four years. But Rahul Gandhi and his associates had little to spell out by presenting an alternative vision, other than claiming for their party the space given up by the BJP at the Congress plenary session in Delhi. Most of Rahul Gandhi’s speech was a strong tirade against the BJP and its two main leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Narendra Modi was linked to corruption with a reference to the bank scam, and Amit Shah to murder with a reference to the Sohrabuddin encounter killing. To the BJP’s quest for absolute power, Rahul Gandhi positioned the Congress’ fight and struggle for truth. He clearly pointed out the contrast between the BJP’s commitment to an organisation (RSS) with the Congress’ voice for the entire nation. But mere aggression is not enough and such words will ring inevitably hollow in the absence of a clear and granular action plan for coming up to the aspirations of the common masses in the country. Even the party resolutions passed at the plenary session had little use for particulars. The Congress’ economic resolution has admittedly faintly echoed Karl Marx’s 11th thesis on Feuerbach: “We have heard the clamour for change. It is now time for change.” There was no point beyond this and no specification why this dictum has to be followed. The resolution on agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation seemed more like a budget proposal, the highlight being a five percent cess on the richest one percent to help the poor. The party is clearly seeking the middle ground: equal economic opportunities for all on equitable basis without, however, instilling the fear of tax terrorism or overbearing regulation. So, fostering of business confidence and rewarding of risk-taking were mentioned in the same breath as promoting employment and security. The relevance of the public sector in critical areas such as defence, transportation and financial services was noted, while resolving to win back economic freedom for India’s entrepreneurs. Harbouring of such vague generalities, there is little to differentiate the Congress’ policies from those of the BJP. In fact, it has noted time and again that some of the policies being implemented by the BJP appear to be an extension of Congress policies with a little re-packaging. Apart from what has been spelled out in the resolutions of the Congress in the plenary session, there was nothing specific to alleviate the poor and economically deprived sections of the society. The percentage of the population living Below Poverty Line (BPL) has increased from 37 percent in 2014 to 42 percent in 2016 and more in the following years. The specified economic programme of the Congress has been having a Leftist leaning with socialism being main focus for human centric development model in the initial years after India’s Independence. If the economic resolution took the middle path, the political resolution was open-ended with a call for a “pragmatic approach of working with like-minded parties and evolving a common programme to defeat the BJP-RSS combine in 2019 General Elections”. No doubt, Congress will be the single largest party in any anti-BJP alliance, it will have to play the role of a junior partner in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In states such of Gujarat and Karnataka where it is a dominant party, it needs the help of smaller allies. Besides allies, the party will need post-poll backing from the Left, however reduced in numbers, to piece together a front against the BJP. A common programme will thus have to be forged with parties with very different orientations. In this context, the vague generalisations are understandable, but will they find favour with voters, is yet to be seen? Both the economic and political agendas have to focus on the local and regional aspirations of the people so that a true federal mechanism is in place before the allies are invited and taken on board by the Congress.