Hints through the media that the Congress may be willing to support Mayawati or Mamata Banerjee for prime ministership or anyone else, so long as the person keeps a safe distance from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and from Narendra Modi, shows the level of desperation of the presiding deities of the party–Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul–to see Modi out of power.
Evidently, the Sonia-Rahul combine and their minions are fearful that they would be in deep trouble if the National Herald case judgment were to go against them in a Delhi court. The threats by firebrand BJP member of Parliament Subramaniam Swamy that he is hopeful that they would be behind bars in a few months is not lost on the Gandhis though they may pooh pooh it.
In any case, they do not trust Modi by the way he has devalued Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in the last four years of being in power.
Although there has been no dissent within the Congress at the anointment of Rahul Gandhi as Congress president, many of the party veterans are smarting under being bossed over by a young man who is regarded as a cipher in politics. Yet, so deeply is the Congress enmeshed in sycophancy that its leaders regard it as unthinkable to question the duo on anything.
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Whatever remained of inner party democracy in the Congress had vanished when Sharad Pawar, P A Sangma and Tariq Anwar were forced to quit the party and set up the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) a few years ago.
Today, Pawar is still nurturing hopes of being able to cajole the duo to support his candidature as prime minister in the event of a hung Parliament based on the kind of ‘you-scratch-my back-I-scratch-yours’ deal that he reckons he is capable of swinging. He knows only too well that Rahul will not be acceptable as prime minister to many regional leaders and that with his (Pawar’s) skill at cultivating regional chieftains he could be the dark horse.
The Gandhis are clearly wary of Pawar because they know he is ambitious and crafty and would not opt for Rahul without extracting his pound of flesh which could be too much for the Gandhis to accept.
By the same token, Mayawati and Mamata too are no pushovers---they are fiery characters in their own ways---and it is most unlikely that Rahul, under Sonia’s tutelage, would serve the Congress support on a platter to either of them. Rahul apparently fancies that if there is a stalemate, his minions would ensure that he is brought back into reckoning.
The important thing is that if names like Mayawati and Mamata begin to be bandied about by the Congress, the electorate, howsoever upset it may be with Modi, would willy nilly go with him than experimenting with leaders who wield no acceptability outside their own states.
Mayawati may style herself as a messiah of the oppressed Dalits but rolling as she is in much accumulated wealth she cannot carry credibility as a prime ministerial candidate for people across the country. The national stage would even otherwise be too much for her to manage, with its myriad challenges of dealing with dignitaries from abroad and corporate honchos within.
With a vision that is appallingly narrow, she can hardly meet the aspirations of the growing middle class in India which is looking at a prime minister who is not obscurantist and casteist but is modern, and progressive.
Mamata’s narrow vision and her propensity to remain steeped in old ways is no certificate for her suitability. The way she forced the House of Tatas to quit Bengal would not be easily forgotten.
Modi, by contrast, has shown extraordinary adaptability and his charisma is undeniable, whether in India or abroad. Some parties may brush him aside for their own selfish gains but people at large still get drawn towards him and would even more if the alternative to him is of the likes of Mayawati or Mamata.