Adjust the sails fast
With a road map for 2022, PM wants to kill two birds with one stone.
After a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is targeting 'for 2022 and not for 2019', by telling us that "we have five years to contribute to change India". Modi out-dared his opponents when he told a gathering at the headquarters of Bhartiya Janata Party a day after the results that "I don't live by-election calculations…..I see these results as the foundation for a New India".
By presenting a road map for 2022, Modi is trying to kill two birds with one stone. First, he wants to make the general elections of 2019 as irrelevant as possible to defuse the process of opposition unity that would take on the BJP. Second, Modi wants to reinforce his Rashtravad Mantra in the minds of the masses by giving them an opportunity to participate in making a new India in next five years. He has very cleverly extended the landing of "Achhe Din", which he had promised to the country in 2014, to another five years.
Modi wants to build up an argument in the backdrop of 2019 elections that he is trying to change India by the time citizens celebrate the 75th year of Independence in 2022. After declaring himself the messiah of poor, he has now projected himself as the saviour of the middle class too by ridding them of their financial burden. Modi feels that his strategy of addressing the difficulties of the poor and middle class will produce a repeat in 2019.
There cannot be any denying that the BJP has the strongest imprint on India's political landscape at the moment and it is not easy for the opposition to counter the Modi brigade by erudition only. The BJP's march can still be checked provided the Congress party breaks its shell, begins meaningful talks with senior leaders of the opposition parties and felicitate the formation of a grand umbrella. But to make it happen, the Congress will have to reinvent it which is possible only if Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi decisively get rid of the rootless wonders surrounding them.
Despite his proclamations to lure the poor and middle classes, Modi will never be able to turn his policies towards the left of Centre. He can talk about socialism, but can never be a socialist. While he speaks about the welfare of poor, he actually believes in reducing the subsidised welfare schemes for them. This is an area which, if communicated correctly, can convince the weaker sections of the society that the Modi government is doing more harm to their interests than any good. Similarly, the middle class could be made aware of the fact that hardly any of more than hundred schemes launched by the current government is designed to benefit them. The opposition also must not let demonetisation go away from the minds of the public because of the recent election results. The real negative effect of the currency exchange measure will be felt in the coming months. The price rise is already at the highest point in past three years. With all this, the opposition will get a chance to carry coals to Newcastle when Modi begins the celebration of the completion of three years in office in May.
The Congress is any day a stronger brand than BJP. Sonia-Rahul combine certainly has more qualitative political strength in a diverse country like India than Modi. But with practically no presence of a party machinery, neither the leadership nor the organisation is in a position to turn the tables. Today's situation is an outcome of following the bits of advice of those whose exposure in country's public life has been nil or those who deliberately misguided the final decision makers to protect their vested interests over all these years. Unless Rahul decides to go into every detail of each issue before taking the final view rather than leaving the major decisions to others after giving them an outline of his overall thinking, he will never be able to get the results he wants.
The basis of the organisational structure of the Congress party is 707 revenue districts all over India. Rahul very rightly changed this to 543 parliamentary constituencies for the Youth Congress. But such a thing was not introduced in the main party which is governed through District Congress Committees (DCCs). This is the time when the party should be structured differently. There could be Lok Sabha Congress Committees (LCCs) in place of DCCs. While Block Congress Committees remain intact, a new level of Assembly Congress Committees (ACCs) could be inserted. There are around 6500 blocks in India which need to be handled by active public figures of the regions. To give Modi's BJP a fight in 2019, the Congress requires at least one person, to represent all 9,30,000 polling stations across the country. Efforts to join hands with like-minded political forces must not jeopardise the core plans on which the foundation of any party is built.
The Congress should also reshape its student's wing. Departments and cells meant to cater the different social and professional sections among the electorates also need to be proactive. Only the dedicated, dynamic and down to earth faces with credibility rather than experts of circular political trading will be able to revive the lives in the artilleries connected to the Central system. The time of trying to make a silk purse out of sow's ear is over. Now it is time for a historical reassessment to transform; time to readjust the sails in the right direction; time not to wait for some other time to make the change. One can't rewind the past, and one can't stop the future. The only way to survive is to 'play'.
(Pankaj Sharma is Editor and CEO of News Views India. Views expressed are strictly personal.)