The political resolution adopted at the three-day Congress plenary at Raipur last week is marked by pragmatism by the party leadership. Whether in dealing with strategy on alliances with the opposition parties, or in formulating the social justice-driven agendas, the leadership has shown both understanding and vision to take on the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections in 2024. The resolution has shown enough flexibility in tackling the major issues. There are indications that the Congress will stake its claim for the leadership of the entire anti-BJP opposition only after proving its electoral mettle via defeating the BJP in at least four out of six assembly polls in 2023. The most important issue on which the Congress delegates, as also the top leadership, have stressed is the imperative of strengthening the party organisation in the states which will be facing assembly polls in 2023 in the second and the third phase. The remaining states are Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram. Out of these six states, in two the Congress is the ruling party, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh; while in two others, i.e., Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress formed governments after the 2018 elections, but the BJP hijacked the elected governments shortly after by organising defections.
The Congress has the potential to get back these two significant states this year if the necessary preparations are made to meet the muscle power of the BJP. In Telangana and Mizoram, the Congress has to fight on its own, and its task is to only improve its strength in the assembly. Although Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has talked of a total opposition alliance, with the leading role for the Congress party, that may not be practically possible, and that should not be attempted also. The Congress has firm supporters in the opposition camp and with them, the Congress may form a pre Lok Sabha poll alliance. The Congress leadership, it seems has a list of sixteen such parties who are agreeable to the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. This front, if it takes shape, is well and good; but it should have complementary relationships with the other non-Congress, non-BJP parties like TMC, BRS and AAP, which will not join the Congress-led front. In fact, except Telangana, there will be no contest between the Congress and any of these parties till the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress strategy should be to have only a post-poll alliance with these parties on the basis of an alternative programme, like what happened after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Who will lead that government will depend on the respective strength of each non-BJP party after the 2024 elections. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar mentioned 100 seats for BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls, but that is too optimistic a figure. Kumar’s predictions are on the basis of a very cozy pre-poll alliance of the opposition parties, which may not fructify when taking into account the uncomfortable ground reality. Any persistent effort to form a total alliance will only jeopardize the prospects of throwing out the Narendra Modi government in 2024 polls.