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Last Updated Saturday November 16 2019 01:08 AM IST

Is Congress waiting for the right time to blow bugle for 2019 polls?

Sachidananda Murthy
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Congress Congress president Sonia Gandhi (L) and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi (file photo)

Two years after its worst defeat in Lok Sabha elections, the Congress is yet to embark on a mission of introspection and drawing up an action plan for the 2019 elections. There have been reports of a reorganization of the congress hierarchy, including elevation of Rahul Gandhi as the president, based on calls for a major surgery after the party's debacle in the last round of assembly elections. Some leaders have called for calling a brainstorming session of up to 1000 leaders. But Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been reluctant to make radical changes. In the last two years, the party had said it was moving from one round of assembly elections to another. But the second half of 2016 is free from elections.

While the party has been in the opposition mode, especially in Rajya Sabha, the same is not true in most states. Interestingly, there are more officially recognized leaders of opposition of the Congress in states than chief ministers belonging to the party. While there are only six chief ministers - Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Puducherry, where there are just 42 Lok Sabha constituencies, the party is the main opposition in 14 assemblies ranging from big ones like Maharashtra and West Bengal to tiny ones like Nagaland and Goa. It is the main opposition in the middle sized states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Kerala, Telengana and Punjab. But the party is still to work out a strategy to use these leaders of opposition, who represent states with 268 seats in the Lok Sabha. Kerala and Assam were the latest to join the list of opposition states for the Congress.

There have been suggestions that the high command should organize a conference of leaders of opposition, rather than that of party chief ministers to take the battle into the BJP camp. Its leaders confront chief ministers belonging to BJP and its allies in states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha, Kerala, Jharkand, Chattisgarh, Telengana and Punjab. Even in a non-BJP ruled state like West Bengal, the Congress is the main opposition. There are suggestions that these leaders of opposition should not just confine themselves to the benches of the assembly hall, but go on statewide tours. Some old timers suggest that leaders who did this could do mass mobilization better than the PCC presidents. They cite the examples of Y.S. Rajasekara Reddy, Siddaramaiah and Oommen Chandy, who as Congress leaders in the assembly, went on tours, with Reddy covering the entire undivided Andhra Pradesh on foot in 2003, which aided the Congress to sweep the state. It also helped the party to just edge out Atal Bihari Vajpayee's BJP by nine seats in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

But the leaders of opposition who visit the national capital to meet the Delhi Durbar, haven't got clear instructions to sound the bugle, except in Punjab where extra effort is being put in to project former chief minister Amarinder Singh as the state leader, by using the services of campaign strategist Prashant Kishore. But the leader of opposition in the state assembly is still not in the picture. 

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