While Congress is trying to convince the masses that Modi is not the right choice, it is failing to answer- “If not Modi then who?”
In the run-up to Gujarat Assembly Elections last year, Rahul Gandhi kicked a storm by calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “Weak PM”. The campaign that followed saw an unusually aggressive Congress and Rahul Gandhi. A quick look at the Congress’ campaign in the recent Assembly Elections in the high stake Gujarat and Karnataka and it will not take long to conclude that it was mainly based around one theme: attacking PM Modi and his policies. Though the Congress raised its tally in Gujarat, the fact still remains that several other factors helped Congress achieve the number.
So has the “attack Modi” strategy really helped Congress?
The lost narrative:
While the strategy of focusing the campaigns on Modi has not proved to be completely successful for the party, it wasn’t a complete failure either. Mounting a direct attack on the PM has earned the Congress President a newfound popularity as revealed in the survey conducted by ABP-CSDS.
The campaigns were able to establish a message -Modi is not suitable for the PM post. But here’s where the faultline appears in Congress’ strategy. While it is trying to convince the masses that Modi is not the right choice, it is failing to answer- “If not Modi then who?” The inability of the Congress to provide a viable alternative to Modi has trapped the party’s campaign in a cycle where anti-Modi narrative consumes most of the part and leaves little room for the party to project any alternative. Simply put, the Congress is telling people about the problem but is unable to provide a solution to it and it is not enough to move masses.
The Negative votes and Regional parties:
It is said, sometimes people vote on the basis of whom they dislike the least. The best example to understand this phenomenon is the US Presidential election. It is possible that the Congress too is eying to cash on the negative votes against BJP and Modi in particular. In last four years of Modi rule, the government saw more misses than hits. A large section of demography including has turned against the BJP. The anger of minorities and Dalits are at peak in the last four years.
Tapping on the mood of these communities can be a good strategy. However, thinking that the votes of these communities will fall only in favour of Congress will be a euphemism. With a spectrum of regional parties spread across different states of India who cater to particular community or ideology (Shivsena-Maratha, RJD- Dalits, BSP-Dalits) it will be a huge task for the Congress to turn these voters to their side. One year is a shorter period to pull the juggernaut of this task.
Is Congress strategy only helping regional parties?
In last six months, the country saw a rise of the regional parties which eventually represents the resentment among people against the BJP. But it also represents the unwillingness of people to thus vote for Congress. While Congress campaign is helping build an “Anti-Modi” mood in the country the party itself is devoid of its benefits.
On the other hand, the success of regional parties in the recently conducted Lok Sabha bypolls shows that they have been able to place themselves as a solution to BJP, if not Modi. The alliance between arch rivals SP-BSP paid good dividends in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypoll elections. However, the parties are reluctant to add Congress to this coalition. The party patrons, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati are also opposed to the idea of Congress being the face of the opposition coalition. Same is the case with KCR and Mamata Banerjee.
Though Congress will be a part of the anti-BJP coalition, the chances are it will only be reduced to the role of facilitator of the coalition. If it wants to project itself as the leader of the coalition and shift votes in its favour it must provide the answer- “If not Modi then Who?”.