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Sonia Gandhi Attempts Congress Course-Correction in Modi's Varanasi

Congress Course-Correction Ahead Of UP Polls (Picture Courtesy:Twitter UPCC_Official)

Congress Course-Correction Ahead Of UP Polls (Picture Courtesy:Twitter UPCC_Official)

Attempting to resurrect a near moribund organisation in the Hindi heartland, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday stormed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency accompanied by a feisty throng of 10,000 bikers.

Sumit Pande

New Delhi: Attempting to resurrect a near moribund organisation in the Hindi heartland, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday stormed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency accompanied by a feisty throng of 10,000 bikers.

Sonia’s road show in Varanasi also alludes towards a tactical shift in Congress’ electoral strategy vis-a-vis Modi. The party has once again fallen back on its longest-serving President – as against her son Rahul – to shore up its dwindling political capital.

High on symbolism, Sonia’s show started at the Circuit House. A Congress Seva Dal trope wearing inverted boat-shaped cap will present a formal guard of honour. It is another matter that this powerful motif of political mobilisation during British rule, ironically, is now associated more with the Aam Aadmi Party.

Also Read: 27 Saal, UP Behaal: Congress' Uttar Pradesh Poll Campaign Slogan

Vande Mataram, Bankim Chandra's hymn in praise of the motherland, will be sung to its full glory. And winding through the narrow lanes of the temple town the procession will end at a park named after the former UP CM and son-of-the-soil Brahmin leader, Kamlapati Tripathi.

Later in the evening, Congress President will visit and offer prayers at the Vishwanath temple before her departure to Delhi. That would be the end of Act I, Scene I.

Political Cul-de-sac

The larger narrative, however, in this script for Congress' revival is evident: that Congress in UP elections will be seeking to make a course-correction, attempting to regain its centrist position in the national polity. This refrain is likely to be heard in every speech, every political demonstration and program which the party plans in the run-up to the polls.

For the Congress, its strength has always been the ability to take everyone along – both the Left and Right of the spectrum. It's a tightrope walk, but then the party over the years mastered the art of spreading the arm wide to sweep along everything that comes its way. Barring few exceptions, the formula worked wonderfully well for the Grand Old Party (GOP) for many years. But the rise of the Right Wing force in the BJP disrupted this status quo.

There is a section within, which has felt that in its effort to counter-balance the disruptive onslaught from the political Right, the Congress in public perception has moved too far to its Left. This drift has left very little scope for the GOP to manoeuvre past a highly polarised narrative – a political cul-de-sac.

Minority Dilemma: Can Congress Fight BJP?

A close look at the recent elections in Kerala and Assam exemplify Congress' current dilemma.

In Assam, the Congress got sandwiched between the two Right Wing parties, the BJP and Badruddin Ajmal's All India United Democratic Front. One catering to the Hindu Right and other to the Muslim Right. Where does that leave the Congress? Nowhere, as was evident on the counting day.

Also Read:Congress to go it Alone in UP Election: Rahul Gandhi

Kerala is even more interesting where Congress won just four seats more than its junior partner Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). The transfer of votes from IUML to the Congress, it seems, did not happen. Wherever the Muslim minorities felt the Left was in a better position to take on the BJP, they shifted base pretty fast.

Evidently, in absence of a solid vote-base amongst the majority community, Congress's political capital has reduced to a level where even the minorities are fast losing trust in Congress' ability to fight the BJP. It happened in Delhi last year. It happened in West Bengal earlier this year.

This Tuesday, when Sonia Gandhi makes a whirlwind tour of the PM's constituency, the effort at course-correction to regain its centrist position in the political landscape will be on display.


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