The ‘Raipur Declaration’

The Congress Party’s 85th plenary ended on February 26 in Raipur, producing the ‘Raipur Declaration’ envisaging electoral calculus in view of the coming Parliamentary polls in 2024 while vowing never to compromise with the politics of BJP-RSS even as the party signalled its readiness to ally with like-minded parties to confront the saffron onslaught. To talk of secularism round the year without really fighting BJP on the streets makes little sense. They react to spontaneity while BJP sets the agenda. The ‘Raipur Declaration’ was all about how to set the tone for the 2024 parliamentary polls and some state elections that are due in this year in Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana. Also, it was an exercise to project Rahul Gandhi as the party’s prime ministerial face. But their statement of opposition unity on the basis of a ‘constructive programme to preserve and protect the Constitution in letter and spirit and to address the three main challenges facing the country---growing economic inequality, intensifying social polarisation and deepening political dictatorship’ was too naïve to unify parties in the opposition camp, particularly regional outfits having no national perspective and political sincerity. They are opportunist to the core, only concerned about how to bargain with the centre for more doles and grants.

Some Congress stalwarts think there could be no opposition alliance without Congress. Then many opposition outfits don’t subscribe the idea of a Congress-led front against the BJP. Given the blooming of lotus in three north-eastern states they have started to believe that Congress is not a  winner even if there is some sort of alliance of the motley crowd. Also some opposition leaders think Congress today has lost its national relevance. And this alliance culture, devoid of any principles, particularly on the part of non-left regional entities, has two aspects----pre-poll alliance and post-poll alliance. As for post-poll alliance things are not that difficult. Trouble starts during pre-poll negotiations as their resolve to fight BJP fail to produce any meaningful platform at the time of seat adjustments.

The ‘Raipur Declaration’ declares that the Congress party is ready to team up with like-minded parties without really explaining what they mean by ‘like-minded’. Congress is not in a position to fight Modi’s pro-corporate agenda because they are now saying in so many voices that they are not against business. And everybody understands that they are trying to send message to the big business, not small traders who are after all dying due to corporate thrust even in retail business. Then Congress won’t make a deal with ‘like-minded’ parties that are averse to the idea of making Rahul Gandhi as the next prime minister. For one thing Mr Gandhi’s credibility has not increased much despite a foot march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and democracy campaign before a select audience at Cambridge.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent people are behind bars for years as under-trials and Congress party never agitates for them demanding their early and unconditional release. They were no less ruthless in suppressing democratic voice of dissent when they were in power, under the spacious plea of containing left-wing extremism. The Congress was the pioneer in propagating the concept that the left-wing extremism is the greatest threat to internal security. Then the ‘Raipur Declaration’ promising skill development for the youth and supporting labour-intensive manufacturing doesn’t differ much from what the Modis are saying day in and day out. What about the plight of unorganised sector employees and migrants? They are virtually silent.

As per the ‘Raipur Declaration’ Congress is willing to emulate the so-called socialist or pro-Mandal parties such as Akhilesh Yadav’s SP, Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JD (U), who have made the caste census the fulcrum of their caste politics, hoping it would transform OBC-Dalit consolidation in 2024 polls in their favour. But the Gandhis are too late to get reasonable return from this caste solidarity in which north Indian caste-based parties, particularly the Mandalites have acquired extra-ordinary skill. Ironically they never agitate for annihilation of caste; what all they want is reservation, more reservation.

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Vol 55, No. 38, Mar 19 - 25, 2023