NEW DELHI: Before the final battle in 2024, the Presidential and Vice-Presidential election was a time when it was expected that the Opposition, especially Congress, would show some challenge to the ruling BJP.
But, if the Opposition’s Presidential and Vice-Presidential choices are anything to go by, the Opposition is in no position to offer any challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The choice of Vice-Presidential candidate Margaret Alva is especially surprising. In her autobiography ‘Courage & Commitment: An Autobiography’ published in 2016, Alva not only criticised senior Congress leaders but also attacked Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
She accused Gandhi of running the party arbitrarily. She also accused the Nehru-Gandhi family of having links with the AgustaWestland scam accused Christian Michel’s father Wolfgang Michel.
Earlier, in 2008, Alva had accused the party of selling tickets in Karnataka when her son was denied a ticket for assembly election in the state.
It must be noted that two senior Congressmen, Jairam Ramesh and Mallikarjun Kharge, attended the meeting at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence on Sunday where Alva’s name was finalised.
Accepting the nomination, Alva said, “It is a privilege and an honour to be nominated as the candidate of the joint opposition for the post of Vice President of India. I accept this nomination with great humility and thank the leaders of the opposition for the faith they’ve put in me.”
Sonia Gandhi is not known to forgive her detractors. This courtesy is extended in only two cases: either when she is arm-twisted like by former President Pranab Mukherjee or is in no position to influence the decision like in Alva’s case.
One has to know how Sonia Gandhi treated former Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao to understand how she treats her detractors. The dead body of Rao was not allowed entry into the Congress office in Delhi and the body was sent to Andhra Pradesh for last rites.
“The choice of Yashwant Sinha and Margaret Alva for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential contest indicates the Grand Old Party deteriorating and diminishing clout within the Opposition,” veteran journalist Rasheed Kidwai, who has been observing the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family for almost half a century, told The New Indian.
He further added that he had never seen any other Presidential or Vice-Presidential election where Congress has come out so disinterested. “Presidential or Vice-Presidential elections did not turn up all of a sudden. Congress could have planned for it in advance but they did not make any attempt,” Kidwai said.
In India’s political history, no coalition government has survived where Congress has participated and not been the axis. Alva’s nomination shows Congress has been severely weakened and there is no hope of its revival anytime soon. Many analysts now believe that 2024 could be the first election in India’s history where Congress will go to the polls without power in any state.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did make some effort to spread her wings and lead the Opposition. But she failed squarely. AITC’s plan to spread outside West Bengal did not succeed as the party failed miserably in Tripura and Goa. Banerjee did lead the Opposition in selecting the Presidential candidate and offered Congress detractor Yashwant Sinha as a candidate.
But after the announcement of Sinha’s name, AITC developed cold feet, so much so that the party kept itself away from the Opposition meeting about Vice-Presidential candidate selection.
Will this fractured Opposition and weakened Congress offer any challenge to BJP/Modi/Shah in 2024? Even a political novice can answer this question.