NEW DELHI: Who can be the face of the Opposition to counter the ageing but undimmed rockstar vibes of Narendra Modi in 2019? That’s the question haunting or hobbling the script of the ‘grand alliance’ — a national front that’s as yet only notional. Two days after the newly constituted CWC projected Rahul Gandhi as a potential PM, high-level sources in the party indicated he was not averse to backing “any non-RSS candidate” for the top job. The CWC’s projection of Rahul got a slightly lukewarm response from potential allies. Only the JD(S) gave a thumbs-up, but even there, the (Congress-backed) Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy added a number caveat. On Tuesday, it seemed the Congress was smelling the coffee, finally.
Quizzed if the Congress would be ready to back a woman leader for the PM job - a Mamata Banerjee or a Mayawati - sources in the party stated: “Any non-RSS candidate, but depends on how the numbers stack up.’’In other words, the GOP is not averse to propping up a non-Gandhi for the post, if that keeps Modi out. But it sees no reason to write away its claim outright. Who emerges as the single largest party within the opposition bloc is naturally a relevant question for the party leadership - and the Congress obviously sees itself as close to that. “We drew a blank in seven states in 2014 (Harayana, J&K, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra, Telangana, Bihar). That’s not going to be the case this time,’’ the source added.
The Congress admits the shape of the post-poll scenario would depend on UP and Bihar alliances, and how few seats they can restrict the BJP to. Mamata is in a quiet tug-of-war with the Congress for the leadership sweepstakes. It is perhaps to that end that she has called an opposition mega rally in Kolkata on August 19.
The Congress clearly is ready to play the nice friend at this point and sacrifice some of its ego to keep the camp fires burning. However, on actual issues - from the farming crisis to foreign policy - the party seems to be drawing up its own blueprint. Its basic thrust is to counter Modi’s “individualistic style of functioning”. Except on one thing perhaps. For, the Congress chief may be following in the PM’s footsteps on one signature move: the bear hug.
Facilitator of pacts
The Congress sees itself as a facilitator of alliances - “to get all the opposition together’’. Outcomes
will depend on “how the disc falls”.