Lessons of 1971 Not Learnt ? – Our first aim is to defeat Mr Modi – Rahul

In a wide ranging interview to the Gulf News, when asked about alliances, the Congress President said –

‘Our first aim is to defeat [Prime Minister] Mr Narendra Modi’

There were other points in the interview, summarising them

  • GST Issues

  • Demonetisation

  • Growth and Jobs

  • Agriculture

  • Cultural Nationalism

  • Instituional Independence

  • Minorities

  • Foreign Relations

  • Pappu Label

  • Lessons from Modi

  • Marriage

The topics covered were quite wide ranging but whether it is the format or perhaps the time period, the interview did not cover any issue in great depth. However, what caught my attention was the reference to defeating Mr. Modi. While that may be the unsaid goal of any campaign, it is perhaps not the kind of direction that voters are waiting to listen. The 1971 election is a readymade lesson for any campaign. In recent times, the Congress party’s focus on KCR in Telangana led to disastorous lessons. In fact, the hammering that the Congress party received in Telangana has to be equally on thne mind of the Congress party strategists. Going back to the interview and looking at the last few elections, there are few things missing from Mr. Gandhi’s commentary. It could be due to the interview format but it is something that average voters are very concerned

– Cost of Living – The basket of goods has changed and expenses are moving towards services. Healthcare and Education being too crucial components.

– Employment – While it is impossible to discuss policy in great detail, this needs as much attention perhaps as the amount of content around alliances. There are two components of employment though only one is discused in detail

– Youth Employment, this is discussed often and in great detail

– Disguised Unemployment and Employability  : The lower middle class and rural labour is suffering from low quality jobs with low growth in many States. With increased mechanisation, the cost of labour has remained steady in most States. It is only in the richer states that labour wages have grown quickly. However, they can employ only that many people. The related issue is losing a job (like through Demonetisation) makes it a little more difficult than in the past to find another job

– Development Concerns : The current Government has put a lot of effort on bringing basics to rural poor apart from expanding infrastructure significantly. While it is not expected for Rahul Gandhi to acknowledge this, there has to be a discussion around what next that the Congress and the opposition has to offer as data has shown most voters are currently happy with the BJP on this front.

How will the opposition be structured? The Congress is in no position to win as many seats as perhaps even 2004. So it is unclear how any opposition Government will be able to offer stable Governance without there being rampant Corruption as was felt during the previous UPA regimes. This is an issue that needs to be spoken about.

The Congress party is on a high after winning elections against the BJP for the first time since May 2013. There are many things going against the BJP after 4-5 years of double anti-incumbency in many States. Just like in the 3 BJP ruled States, voters may be open to considering other options. However, unless the opposition offer is more than Modi Hatao and instead focuses on real issues as identified above, 2019 will end up looking a lot more like Telangana 2018 and lot less like Chhattisgarh 2018.

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