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2016: Find out why Congress is still a game-maker

Panini Anand | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 3:05 IST

The prospects

  • Regional parties seem keen on aligning with the Congress
  • Left Front and DMK have hinted towards an alliance with the party

The change

  • This is a change from the \'go it alone\' approach favoured by Rahul Gandhi
  • Alliances might have become the new mantra for the party

More in the story

  • How feasible are these alliances?
  • Can the Bihar experiment be replicated?
  • What are the hitches?

The Congress isn't exactly on the path to revival. Its leadership is still facing a legal threat in the National Herald case. But the party isn't as isolated as one would expect it to be. There is no shortage of parties who seem interested in aligning with the Congress at the state level.

The Left Front has hinted that they want anti-Trinamool Congress and anti-BJP forces to come together in West Bengal, which goes to polls in the summer of 2016.

This has sparked speculation of an alliance with the Congress in the state, even though there is no clear word from the party.

Of course, a Left-Congress alliance in West Bengal will be complicated by the fact that the two are competing with each other in Kerala, which goes to polls at the same time.

Also read: Is a BSP-Congress-RLD Grand Alliance emerging in UP?

In another poll bound state, Tamil Nadu, there is speculation of a Bihar style Mahagathbandhan between the DMK and the Congress. Both parties are actively considering this possibility.

So are alliances the new mantra of the Congress?

The surprising thing is that it is not the Congress that is taking the initiative for the alliance. The regional parties are making overtures towards the Grand Old Party.

In the first half of the 2016, as many as 4 states are going to the polls: Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu in addition to the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Many parties have begun to feel that the Grand Alliance model in Bihar can be replicated in other states.

The JD(U) and RJD might have been the major partners in Bihar but they have no presence in other states. So it is the junior partner, the Congress, that can take the model to other states.

After Bihar, the Congress has also realised that it is a good idea to go for an alliance in states where it has a weak presence such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Also read: As Gogoi stares at anti-incumbency, Congress warms up to AIUDF

The party won 27 seats out of the 41 it contested in Bihar, a huge jump from the 4 seats it had won in the previous election.

Rahul Gandhi's strategy discarded

During UPA rule, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi used to maintain that the party should go it alone and strengthen itself across the country. He reiterated this after the 2009 victory as the party did exceptionally well in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections.

But this strategy seems to have been discarded. The party has realised that it needs to win in order to remain relevant.

"There is no harm in having alliances in these states. We might go with DMK and other regional parties with OBC and Dalit votes. There is a possibility of repeating the Grand Alliance experiment in states like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu," said a Congress leader from South India.

Left Front and DMK have hinted at an alliance with Congress in their respective states

Though he didn't rule out an alliance with the ruling AIADMK, the DMK seems a more comfortable option. There is no clarity about West Bengal so far. The Left might have made an overture to the Congress but there is also speculation that the TMC and Congress might come together.

Also read: 5 reasons why the Congress is in a shambles in Uttar Pradesh

First published: 30 December 2015, 12:54 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.