The Congress and its elected president must, hence, abandon the thought that they are the natural leaders of an anti-BJP front.
It is not only perfectly legitimate for the Opposition to claim that it will replace those in power in the next election; it is their job to present themselves as a viable alternative before the electorate so that they have an option to choose from. From that point, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge was right when he said the people will teach the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi a lesson in the 2024 lok Sabha election and an alliance government will come to power at the centre. But the next sentence let the cat out of the bag — Mr Kharge asserted that the Congress will lead the alliance and will be at the head of the government.
Indian electoral verdicts offer a paradox of sorts. The BJP and the NDA which it leads with no major allies win more than 300 seats in the 540-member Lok Sabha; it sweeps most states, leaving very little space for the Opposition. At the same time, there are not many states where the party can effortlessly form a government. This offers a challenge and an opportunity to the Opposition: If they were to consolidate their position in the Lok Sabha polls, they can pose a threat to the BJP and Mr Modi.
But the necessary, but not sufficient, condition is that there must be a consolidated Opposition against the super-consolidated ruling party. The Congress is eminently positioned to lead it, given the party, either on its own or in alliance, is in pole position in several states, including those which send large contingents to the Lok Sabha. And the party has proven its detractors who predicted its early demise wrong by returning to power in Himachal Pradesh. It is still early to gauge the success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi but it must have injected a new enthusiasm into its grassroots workers.
The party, however, cannot afford to be oblivious of certain ground realities. It is very long since it has proved to be a major force to be reckoned with in a Lok Sabha poll; in fact, it was unable to manage 10 per cent seats in the last two Lok Sabha elections so that it can claim the position of the leader of the Opposition. The organisation is in tatters in several states; infighting at the top has nearly threatened the survival of two state governments. Not one of its potential allies, be it the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Trinamul Congress, the DMK or the Left, depends on it for their success or survival.
The Congress and its elected president must, hence, abandon the thought that they are the natural leaders of an anti-BJP front. It is a position kept vacant for the party but it will have to fight a patient and careful battle before it gets to occupy it. Instead of donning a condescending attitude, it must open its arms, hold every ally and potential ally by the hand and walk together. The plenary session of the party which begins on Friday must take a realistic look at the developing political scenario and formulate a game plan instead taking situations for granted.