The Congress is holding its three-day plenary session at Raipur beginning February 24. This conclave is going to be crucial for the party in framing its strategy for the coming Lok Sabha elections in April-May 2024 that are barely 13 months away. In the current round of the state assembly elections in 2023, the Congress has taken a cavalier attitude to the three northeastern states – Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland – where polling will be over by February 27. The three state Congress units are upset that the party high command has let them down by not offering the much-needed assistance in terms of resources, including cash and organisational support. The Congress has to focus now on the remaining six states going to polls in 2023. The most important of them is Karnataka right now as this is the state where the Congress has the potential to defeat the BJP on its own strength, even though there is no electoral understanding with the JD(S). The ground situation in Karnataka has slipped away from the BJP in the last few weeks. The Congress cadres are now rejuvenated after the success of Bharat Jodo Yatra, and the joint campaigning by the two factional leaders, S Siddaramaiah and D K Shivkumar, has boosted their confidence further.
Right now, all attention of the Congress party should be on Karnataka and the plenary should work out its strategy accordingly. Once the BJP can be defeated in Karnataka, the Congress will find it easier in the states where it is the main party taking on the BJP. In Telangana, the main party fighting the BJP will be the BRS of K Chandrasekhar Rao. The Congress has to fight in that state with both the BJP and the BRS. In Mizoram, the Congress has to look for alliance with the non-NDA regional parties of the state. Another extremely important matter to carefully consider during the plenary session should be the approach towards other opposition parties ready to fight the BJP jointly in the coming Lok Sabha elections. It is a fact that the Congress is the strongest non-BJP party even now among the opposition, despite its decline over the last nine years. But still, in the interest of the grand old party itself, the Congress leadership has to be pragmatic in allowing the leading regional parties who are fighting the BJP to be the bigger electoral partner in their respective states, for the sake of building stronger alliances.
For the Congress, the best course will be to follow a three-point strategy regarding the non-BJP opposition parties. Right now, there are model alliances in Bihar and Tamil Nadu, which effectively demonstrate how the anti-BJP parties can be united under one umbrella. Similarly, in Kerala, the 20 seats will be divided between the CPIM-led Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led front. So, the seats will be with the anti-BJP parties, despite fighting between the fronts. In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress is the main contender against the BJP both within the state and in the next Lok Sabha polls, wherein the TMC is expected to do better than the last time. Whatever TMC gains, will be a loss to the BJP, and that will belong to the opposition front.