Probable faces of Congress / opposition in 2019 elections

The narrative epic of the Kurukshetra war and the desire to gain power and rule furnishes a very interesting myth depicting the ultimate destruction of those who thought themselves to be powerful in Mahabharat. Pandavas, in spite of being less in number and with all the heavyweights on the other side, won the war because they had the strategic and well-planned guidance of Krishna.

In the current political scenario though there is very less hope for Congress to win the general elections, due in 2019, still if it aims for success with the right planning and the right leader to guide them it may not be impossible. If Congress wants to come back to power it will have to find a Krishna for its party to guide them and get them the rule back at the centre. Currently, BJP has almost formed government in all the states of India and is thriving hard to get the left out states also into its pocket before the polls. Ultimately BJP is making India a one party nation by wiping out the opposition by any means.

At this, if the Congress wishes to come back, the very first thing it needs to do is to unite all the opposition parties together and to project an acceptable leader who could be nominated as the Prime Ministerial face against Narendra Modi in 2019. In the era of Narendra Modi, nationalism is a hot currency in India and as long as this wind blows, there is very little chance for the anti-Modi forces to make any decisive gain. But politics, like cricket, is a game of glorious imponderables one can never guess who might win or lose. Back in 2000’s no one even dreamt of Narendra Modi being the Chief Minister of Gujarat, let alone becoming the Prime Minister of India. However, this did happen and it was no mere coincidence that he became the PM. He carried a vigorous election campaign throughout the nation. From metro cities to villages, he made sure that his face is known to all and this is exactly what Congress needs to do to make its face known.

Getting all the opposition parties unitedly against BJP is not a very simple task but it is not impossible too. Congress President Sonia Gandhi has been successful in getting 17 and 19 opposition parties together to decide a consensus candidate during the Presidential and Vice-presidential elections respectively. She sure has the potential to get back all the opposition together under one roof against Modi in 2019. If the party manages to form an alliance with all the other opposition parties the chances of UPA ruling at the Centre again is more. Although many parties like the RJD, TMC, SP and much more have extended their support to the party, the speed at which BJP is luring all the parties to their side Congress needs to act faster.

Another major problem that Congress needs to seek out is the Prime Ministerial face the party will project in 2019. Sonia being the President and Rahul Gandhi being the Vice-President of Congress do not portray as the PM candidate. There are a few other possible contenders who could run the race if given the right calculated strategy and a mind-boggling election campaign running across the nation reaching out to every single person even at the grass root level. The names that could be the possible contenders for the elections are:

Priyanka Gandhi – the Gandhian girl 

Priyanka Gandhi is the last hopeful girl from the Gandhian clan to get back power once again to the party. She does embody many qualities that make her a viable candidate. Considering she has been raised by her mother Sonia Gandhi who rose to power amidst the Congress’ darkest days and has witnessed the ups and downs of the party, Priyanka does know how she can effectively run the party and possess the qualities of Indira Gandhi. She also has the distinct style of personalized campaigning. Right from 2009, her addresses have always inspired warmth and communication amongst the audience. The senior Congress leaders will also support her candidature. Few have also quoted for her that “Priyankaji has the inspiring qualities of Indiraji while Rahulji has more the innocence of Rajivji.”

As for the track records, Priyanka has not been attached to any major scams or criminal cases nor has made any glaring mistakes just yet. Whether being her credentials i.e. being Sonia Gandhi’s daughter or her insistence on connecting with her voters, Priyanka Gandhi seems a good choice for the Congress to portray her as the Prime Ministerial face in 2019.

Though the candidature might face some drawbacks as first this has to be confirmed if Priyanka really and dedicatedly wants to enter into politics or not. As largely, for the last decade, Priyanka, a doting mother to two children, has restricted herself to visiting only the two Gandhi constituency in Uttar Pradesh and never ventured anywhere else. She has never even contested an election or held any posts in the party. One more negative point that Priyanka may have to face is her relationship with Robert Vadra. Priyanka is Robert’s wife and in hence more or less also accused of being involved in the charges filed against Robert. If a campaign led by Priyanka has to work, there has to be a statewide mobilisation of workers and the strengthening of block units.

Rahul Gandhi – politician with a silver spoon 

Rahul Gandhi is the Vice-President of Congress and is likely to take over as the Chief of the party in Oct. He can also be a possible candidate with the credentials of being the son of Sonia Gandhi. Rahul has been actively participating in politics by reaching out to the people at the base level and listening to their problems. Recently Rahul personally visited Madhya Pradesh to pay a visit to the families of farmers who were killed in a police firing in Mandsaur, where the farmers were protesting for a raise in the minimum support price for all farm products and a complete loan waiver. He also visited his constituency in Uttar Pradesh to listen to the complaints of people that their houses and shops were demolished by NHAI without giving them proper compensation. He assured them that the party will provide every possible help to them.

During the election campaign back in 2009 before the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul also started the ‘Dalit ke ghar roti’ program. He went to the houses of Dalits and had food with them and held meetings in the villages to listen to the problems of the people. Basically, this was done to connect with the people at the grass-root level.

But there are a few stumbling blocks along this path also. Rahul though representing the party is not the choice of anyone for the PM face. Rahul does not enjoy much popularity as a leader to handle a serious and responsible post like being the Prime Minister of India. He is rather considered an immature politician, who cannot take decisions wisely. He has never held office that puts him in position accountable to the public, he is seen as distant and unfriendly to the media. He is not an inspiring orator, nor does he have the commanding presence of other leaders of national import.

Shashi Tharoor – a man of knowledge 

Shashi Tharoor is the Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He also currently serves as Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs. He excels in education and has done B.A. in history from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, M.A., M.A.L.D. & Ph.D. from Tufts University, USA.  He has deep knowledge of international and national issues and can connect with people and with world leaders. Tharoor has worked at UN for over 30 years in various positions. He has also authored several books which reflect his understanding of the pluralistic society of India. He posses the talent of speaking multiple languages, English, Hindi, French, Malayalam etc. He is an exceptional orator and a debater as well. In his 5 years term as the MP, his activities and initiatives taken for development are known and appreciated world-wide. In spite of the anti-incumbency wave against Congress flowing in the Country, he managed to win in 2014 also.

He definitely fits the tag of ‘modern-day politician’ the country is aspiring for especially the youth. There was also a petition launched for him on the internet calling for Congress senior leader Shashi Tharoor to be the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections in 2019. Thousands of people signed their consent to let him contest the polls. Over the past few months, Tharoor has emerged as the most vocal of all Congress leaders.

But the man of knowledge also has a few things against him, he is considered to be a too elitist leader and may not be successful in connecting with the masses of the nations. Had this been the Nehruvian era his chances could have been stronger taking into account his ideology and personality. There are also a few controversies he is attached with, the major being the death case of his wife Sunanda Pushkar. Sunanda’s death was considered as a suicide but after investigation, it turns out to be a murder and Shashi is alleged to have been involved in it. He was also forced to resign in 2010 as a central minister in the wake of an IPL-related corruption charge against him. The man’s knowledge is immense, his writing is precious for every lover of the English language. But becoming a prime ministerial candidate in a Modified India requires something more than that.

Akhilesh Yadav – Tipu Sultan of Indian politics 

Akhilesh Yadav, son of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the President of Samajwadi party is sprouting out to be an ambitious leader. He was first elected to the 13th Lok Sabha from Kannauj in a by-election in 2000 and became the youngest Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2012. The most important and significant achievement of Akhilesh is that he has an experience of running most populous and caste divided state of India with interference at unimaginable levels. He is well educated unlike most other politicians and enjoys a good image amongst the youth. His education has been fairly cosmopolitan. Schooling in Rajasthan, Graduation in Karnataka and Masters Degree in Civil Environmental Engineering from Sydney.

During his tenure as the CM, he re-introduced the ‘janta-darbar’, where the people could easily access him pour out their grievances. His Clean UP, Green UP initiative earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. He gave special attention to education and women safety and launched the 1090 24×7 helpline that handled cases of harassment against women in the state.

Though a capable leader he too will have to cross a few hurdles if selected to be the Prime Ministerial face in 2019. Though he started on a positive note of fulfilling the election promises, he gradually got stuck in party politics. His peers made him believe that only thing that mattered was the Samajwadi Party’s caste and creed configuration. The interference of family politicians in his governance is the main reason for his downfall. People mockingly said that Uttar Pradesh has five and a half Chief Ministers with Akhilesh being the half one. His uncles and father holding major positions in politics became a drawback for him instead of a boon. Other than this Samajwadi party is a small party and fielding its Chief as the PM face against Modi hoping to get nation wide support is next to impossible.

MK Stalin – Thalapathi of South 

M. K. Stalin is an Indian politician from Tamil Nadu and Working President of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party. He is popularly called Thalapathi which means a person who creates a happy, versatile, and expressive nature, with good business judgment and a fine sense of responsibility, which establishes congenial relationships in positions of trust when dealing with the public. Following his stint as the Mayor of Chennai in 1996, people were so impressed with his work that he was referred to as “Managara Thanthai”, or father of the city. He privatized garbage clearance, worked on improving the city’s infamous public transport system and got about a dozen flyovers and mini-flyovers built. Becoming mayor repositioned him as a serious party organizer and he got noticed by the educated middle-class. Stalin was the first to hold the office of Deputy Chief Minister, in the entire history of Tamil Nadu. He held office from 2009 to 2011. The need for a deputy CM arose on the grounds of deteriorating health of the then CM Karunanidhi.

He campaigned through out the State and touched every point where he had to, to win the necessary seats and managed to get the confidence of the people by connecting with them. He rose to the position of a popular leader probably next to Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi.

Even though a commander in South, Stalin becoming the opposition’s candidate for 2019 is a bit risky as Stalin is not a known face across India. He is just a regional leader and not very much active on the national front. Stalin has quite a few records of getting arrested. The fact that he was also jailed under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) for protesting against the Emergency imposed during Indira Gandhi’s time can be a negative point for him. Stalin along with his father was also accused to be involved in a Rs 12 crore flyover scam, the duo was arrested and kept under remand for a few days. Stalin is also believed to be involved in the 2G scam, a chargesheet was filed by the ED where Stalin’s name was also involved. He was accused of having the knowledge of inner workings of how the money trail flowed into the DMK party organ Kalaignar TV. 80% of the shares of Kalaignar was owned by Stalin’s sister and step mother.

Naveen Patnaik – The man who transformed Odisha 

The politician cum writer is the incumbent and the 14th  Chief Minister of Odisha. After the split in Janta Dal, Naveen formed the Biju Janta Dal, resigned as the Union Minister for Mines and swore in as the Chief Minister of Odisha in 2000 and has been the CM of the state since then. Having the huge experience of holding the post for 17 years is a remarkable achievement for him to be a probable opposition candidate for 2019 polls.

When Naveen took over as the CM in 2000, Odisha had the country’s highest poverty level at 59 per cent of the population. By 2012, the poverty level was down to almost half – 32.5 per cent – the highest reduction in poverty among all Indian states during that period. Under him, Odisha’s economic progress has been impressive. The state’s GDP grew an average of 6.66 % annually in the past five years and fiscal prudence was maintained. Odisha imported
rice from Punjab and Haryana when Patnaik took over. It now produces surplus rice that it exports to the rest of the country. It’s anti-poverty programs and welfare schemes for women have been emulated by the rest of India. Odisha has also shown rapid industrial growth and attracts among the highest amounts of investment annually in diversified sectors. Naveen is considered as a sincere and clean politician interestingly not involved in any scams or criminal cases and is whole heartedly devoted to the development of Odisha.

The one factor that might be a hindrance in Congress nominating Naveen as the PM candidate on 2019 is that BJD has always been a neutral party and its support can be to either side, NDA or UPA. Also, Naveen has been the CM of Odisha since 2000 and might be the ultimate choice of the people there but he is not a well-recognised politician at the national level. If Congress is to select Naveen, it will have to run a rigorous campaign to make his face known to the base level.

Mamata Banerjee – the iron lady of Bengal 

The feisty and popularly known as Didi, West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has the spirits and courage to match Modi’s firepower. She is today one of the rare Indian politicians who have a strong mass base support. Unlike a few other parties, her determination of staying anti-Modi and not joining the NDA at any cost has been very firm till now. She has been the 8th and the first women CM of West Bengal since 2011. Banerjee has also held many other ministerial positions and was the Railway Minister twice. In 2012, Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. In September 2012 Bloomberg Markets magazine listed her among the 50 most influential people in the world of finance. Banerjee also recently received a UN Public Service Award for initiating the ‘Kanyashree Prakalpa’ scheme under which every year cash was deposited in the bank accounts of girls if they remained enrolled in a school and remained unmarried. This initiative gained popularity and helped in reducing illiteracy amongst girls and child marriage drastically.

During her term as the Chief Minister, Mamata started various reforms in education and health sectors and also proposed a solution to a long pending issue of the Gorkhaland in the state. She formed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. Nadia was declared as the first open defecation free district in India in 2015 by the UNICEF.

However, Mamata apart from playing the elder sister of West Bengal also has a background of playing bad politics. Mamata is always seen as a leader of using the minority appeasement policy, promoting Islam in the state. Often statements like ‘from Mamataa Banerjee to Mumtaz Bano’ is used for her. She is believed to be short sighted and a regionalist and is often referred to as a dictatorial politician. Mamata has a habit of opposing everything, whether necessary or not Mamata is always seen opposing the decision of others. The other fact that goes against Mamata is that if she represents as the opposition candidate and wins the polls, it is quite possible that only West Bengal will flourish under her reign. When she was the Railway Minister only West Bengal enjoyed major developments in the field and overall development across the nation was not seen. Also, Mamata has been accused of not taking actions against the corrupt leaders in her cabinet involved in criminal cases and scams. There has been Saradha Group financial scandal and Rose Valley financial scandal during her tenure where some of her cabinet ministers were accused of money laundering and Mamta did not take any action against the involved leader.

Also, the state has witnessed quite a few communal riots between Hindus and Muslims during her term.  2013 Canning riots, 2015 Nadia riots, 2016 Kaliachak riots, 2016 Dhulagarh riots and 2017 Baduria riots. The recent protest in hills going on from the past one month, demanding for a separate Gorkhaland, also speaks otherwise of the governing skills of the iron lady.

Arvind Kejriwal – the celebrated Aam Aadmi 

Arvind Kejriwal is the incumbent Chief Minister of Delhi and the founder of the Aam Admi Party. Kejriwal is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and worked in the Indian Revenue Service as a Joint Commissioner of the Income Tax Department in New Delhi. He launched AAP in 2012 and the party won in the 2013 Delhi Legislative Assembly election. Following the elections, Arvind assumed office as the CM of Delhi in Dec 2013 but resigned in 49 days. He again swore in as the CM in 2015.

The Kejriwal-led government managed to gather some achievements in the fields of education and healthcare. He built some 100 new schools and issued an order that schools constructed on government lands do not have the permission to hike the school fees and if did so, will have to return the money back to the parents. He also sent teacher and principals abroad for training. Another major achievement of Kejriwal government was rates cut down in electricity tariff and supply of free water. He opened around 110 clinics in the capital which offered free doctor consultation, tests, and medicines. After two years of being at rule, a survey was conducted in Delhi which said that 66% of the people admitted notable decrease in corruption in the Capital.  Kejriwal has been honored with many awards like Ashoka Fellowship in 2004, Satyendra K. Dubey Memorial Award in 2005, CNN-IBN Indian of the Year in Public Service in 2006, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership in 2006, Policy change agent of the year in 2010, the NDTV Indian of the Year award in 2011, CNN-IBN Indian of the Year in Politics in 2013.

But it has just been a few years that Arvind has entered politics. He is too inexperienced to contest as the PM face for 2019 elections. He has a habit of taking a u-turn in his sayings if anything goes against him or the way he did not want it to go, he usually takes back his words. He keeps boasting about being a representative of the Aam Admi-middle class man and talks about simplicity but most of his party MLAs are millionaires. His own party members do not support him and he also stages a protest against them. He keeps putting the blame on others and especially Modi if he fails to achieve set goals or promises made by him. There are also quite a few defamation cases filed against Kejriwal.

A tough challenge lies in front of Congress and the party needs to start preparing from now itself if it wants to see some positive results in the future. Apart from all these proposed names the biggest hope that Congress was depending upon was Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He was considered the best candidate against Modi and the opposition also had faith that if the coalition at Bihar between JD(U)-RJD and Congress could work so well and throw out BJP it sure could work wonders at the Centre. But with the recent developments in Bihar politics, it has not only changed the political scenario of Bihar but has also shaken the very roots of Congress. After Nitish Kumar joining hands with BJP and forming a new government in Bihar in alliance with the NDA, the dreams of fielding Nitish Kumar against Modi and also winning the elections has been drastically shattered.

But like the saying goes where there is a will there is a way, if Congress gets firm on the determination to dethrone BJP it can. Another option, though impossible but still worth trying is to get Nitish Kumar back to join Congress and put him forward as the future PM of India.

But as it is rightly said that the current situations in the opposition parties is just like there being too many chiefs and too little Indians. Everyone wants to rule but nobody is understanding that only standing unitedly against BJP will pave the path for their victory. The parties are presently playing the ego game of not letting down the self-esteem to join Congress and lose their credentials and the same goes with Congress. The party does not seem to understand that people need an acceptable leader to head the party, only a Gandhi, not necessarily may lead.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, BJP rapidly flooding the entire nation in their wave will in the near future corrupt the democracy of India and nourish dictatorship. BJP is aiming for a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, now it is up to Congress to decide where it wants to stand in 19 months down the lane.