The profound fallout of the BJP’s 5-0 loss in the state elections is playing out across India’s political landscape. The outcome has created a powerful drift in favour of Congress which is back in Hindi heartland. The party now has an opportunity to build upon the success in the run-up to parliament polls due by May or June next year. Certainly, the states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will be crucial in the Congress campaign. In UP, the party will need to go with the SP-BSP alliance which have a commanding presence in the state. Congress will have little option but to play second fiddle to the two parties. In Bihar, it already has a tie-up with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD. Considering that the public mood seems to have swung against the BJP – albeit, still tentatively so – there is a chance that the Congress-RJD combine could stage a comeback in Bihar in Parliament polls. As always, the performance in the Hindi heartland holds key to power at the centre. And omens look good for the Congress and the wider opposition after the results of the state elections. Already, the opposition has got the wind in its sails after the BJP’s spectacular humbling in the state polls. And going forward, the situation looks set to get better for them provided they maintain the momentum and build a political narrative that takes on the BJP’s toxic Hindutva.
India needs a robust secular narrative to confront Modi with his first serious political challenge. The country needs a politics that brings into sharp relief the secular-communal binary and turns it into a fight between good and evil. But Rahul Gandhi so far has not been up to the task. His vision for the country is vague and uninspiring. He has so far failed to straddle the widened Hindu-Muslim divide. Instead, he has chosen to play second fiddle to the BJP on ideology and ply a soft Hindutva that includes making a beeline to temples during elections and avoiding Muslims. as it is, the election campaign in the five states was bereft of any discourse about Muslims or addressing their concerns.
What India needs is a leader who re-invigorates secularism-communalism debate and highlights the pitfalls of Modis idea of India. India needs a leader who also redefines and re-invents the concept of secularism, not as a vote-bank identity as is the case now but as a live, everyday creed and ethic that also informs Indias institutions. The secularism that the Congress is iterating continues to be steeped in electoral calculations. And this is why it is not convincing, unlike Modi.
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