Whose ‘thumka’ will shake 2019 polls?

Sushil Kutty 

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he day is Monday, June 25, 2018. Sunrise was at 5.24 am and sunset at 7.22 pm in New Delhi. Daylight for 13 hours and 57 minutes, time enough to make headlines. And making off to a flying start was the BJP’s Karnal MP Ashwani Chopra. In a rant moment, he described popular Himachali singer-dancer Sapna Chaudhary as a ‘Thumke Wali’ because she said she would campaign for the Congress.

Meanwhile, at least one political analyst, reading Rahul Gandhi, concluded that he had succeeded in suppressing his ‘inner Ronaldo’ and had summoned his ‘inner Messi’. Messi is a team player and Ronaldo a buccaneer, prone to having a ball all on his own. But, says the analyst, the team the ‘mahagathbandhan’ does not want Rahul to be striker because he lacks the skills to put the ball past Amit Shah. For that, you need the guile of a Mayawati and the cunning of a Mamata Banerjee.

The assessment is that the grand alliance faces ‘do-or-die’ battles in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Just as Senegal and Japan faced Sunday night in the World Cup. A draw was all they could net and the suspense continues. Columbia, on the other hand, beat Poland 3-0. And England trounced Panama 6-1. Those are the kind of victories the alliance is aiming for. But, with confidence lacking, and a consensus in leadership not emerging, the ‘mahagathbandhan’ is stuck at half-line. And the Congress is splitting away. The Congress’s in-charge of Chhattisgarh, KL Punia, says his party will win the state on its own ballast.

It also appears that the Congress rank and file does not believe in this whole alliance thing. They cite the after-effects of the JD(S)-Congress alliance in Karnataka as a case in point: Hardworking Siddaramaiah is in the deep and lazy-lampoon HD Kumaraswamy is top of the heap. What a travesty! The Congress worker wants the party revived, not other parties given a leg-up. ‘No more charity’ is the mood. Charity begins at home. Maybe right, maybe very right! But, poor guys, they do not know who is in need of votes and who has got the votes to transfer. As they say, “A sucker’s born every minute…”

The Congress’s ‘so-far-and-no-further’ policy on Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘sofa-fast’ has also not gone down well with the anti-Modi alliance. Kejriwal got support from the non-BJP chief ministers, but the Congress has its chestnuts in the fire. One of them is Delhi and the other is Punjab, where the AAP is a complete pain…

Of course, it has dawned on the Congress that Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav do not want to do favours to the Congress and Rahul. The Congress comes with baggage. Rahul ‘Ronaldo’ or Rahul ‘Messi’ does not matter to ‘bua Mayawati’ and ‘bhatija Akhilesh’. If Mulayam Singh Yadav was around, it would have been ‘kushti’, but he is in the mud-pit with feet of clay.

That said, and this has been said before, the Congress truly does not need the ‘alliance’ in Madhya Pradesh, or Rajasthan and, now, as it says, in Chhattisgarh, either. After all, where is the SP in MP, or Rajasthan and how strong is the BSP in MP and Chhattisgarh? The reality is that the Congress covers more ground pan-India.

Mamata is Mamata in Bengal, alone. Mayawati is Mayawati only in UP. Chandrababu Naidu will get his beard cropped outside Andhra and HDK will be a lost boy outside pockets of Karnataka. Pinaryi Vijayan will find Malayalees everywhere, but most of them will vote for the Congress. Kejriwal is a lost case, unless sections of the NRI are complete dolts. The reckoning is that the Congress is “relevant” in around 280 of the 540-odd Lok Sabha seats. And, in the current scenario, it could win 100+. Wins in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will change the picture completely and “then we’ll talk alliance, okay?” Besides, Rahul has made it clear that he plans to become PM. For the Congress worker, that alone counts. And, for all we know, Pranab Mukherjee cannot betray. At 82, one last fling is too much to expect from a man who is outside the ring. Citizen Pranab has not said a word on the alliance and not one against the Congress.

Finally, appointing Jairam Ramesh campaign coordinator for the 2019 General Elections may have its minuses but he has just written a book on Indira Gandhi’s hatchet man, PN Haksar, and what Haksar cannot teach very few can. In conclusion, there will be many sunrises and sunsets before the next General Elections, but, by this time next year, we will know whose ‘thumka’ won the day and whose did not. The Congress’s, or the BJP’s? The grand alliance minus the Congress pre- or post-poll will be nowhere on stage to shake a hip.

(The author is a political commentator)