Author: BHAVDEEP KANG
The AICC panel looking into the party's rout moots the alliance mantra
Many Congressmen may still be coming to terms with the idea of sharing power, but the party is willy-nilly being propelled in that direction. At least that seems to be the crux of the analysis of AICC statisticians dissecting the party's rout in the recent assembly elections. The main reason cited for the massive erosion of the Congress support base is the fracturing of the non-BJP vote.
The statistical exercise—the first detailed effort undertaken by the AICC (made available to Outlook)—shows the party would have performed better in alliances with smaller parties, particularly the BSP. The AICC analysis has provided ammunition for the pro-alliance lobby, but still the five-member panel set up to probe the reasons for defeat is headed by veteran Pranab Mukherjee, a die-hard member of the anti-alliance group. The other members are P.R. Das Munshi, Mani Shankar Aiyer (pro-) and Prithviraj Chauhan (anti-) and Vijay Handique (neutral). Pranab now admits there are strong possibilities for alliances in Maharashtra (NCP), Tamil Nadu (DMK), AP (Telangana Rashtriya Samiti) and Uttar Pradesh (BSP, RLD and Rashtriya Kranti Party). "But it is hard for us to forge an NDA-style coalition because of our pan-Indian presence. We can't align with the TDP in Andhra or the BJD in Orissa or the Left in Kerala or West Bengal without liquidating our own party," he adds.
The most favoured potential alliance partner at the moment is the BSP. In MP, the Congress-BSP would have gained 35 more seats if they had been partners, says the party analysis. In Rajasthan, the two would have gained 26 seats and in Chhattisgarh net gains would have been seven.
And it's not just the BSP. The AICC study shows that an understanding with the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) in MP, a marginal outfit with an overall 1.96 per cent voteshare, would have netted the two nine extra seats. In Chhattisgarh, a tie-up with the SP, which garnered a mere 1.25 per cent of the vote, would have yielded an extra six seats. It seems the party can't afford to ignore even the smallest of parties.
Be that as it may, it seems analysis is best left to the likes of computer cell chief Vishwajit Prithvijit Singh. Few Congressmen have patience with statistics, preferring to look for less complex explanations like "communalisation" of the tribal belt. Pranab says the party should've seen it coming: "It started with Gujarat last year. The loss in the tribal belt, running from Gujarat across southern Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, is a major setback."
The series of interviews conducted by the panel with state-level leaders and workers have thrown up the obvious: the RSS-backed Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram has assiduously eaten into the Congress' tribal votebank by providing a whole range of social services. "The Sangh has made a big investment in tribal areas," says Das Munshi.
The party's number-crunchers, however, point out that the BJP has benefited only to a limited extent from the negative swing against it. The bulk of the Congress vote has slipped into the hands of invisible rivals, the mysterious "others".
The wipeout in the tribal belt currently overshadows the decimation of the party in the SC seats. Of the 76 SC seats, it has won only 12. Given the fact that the party positions itself as the saviour of the weaker sections, the wind has truly been taken out of its sails. Senior leaders flounder for an explanation, vaguely attributing it to "organisational weakness".
The recording of depositions from central observers, AICC general secretaries, PCC chiefs and members of the screening committee responsible for ticket distribution is still under way. Das Munshi seems determined: "We'll fearlessly prepare a blueprint for the future". Most partymen though are rather cynical about the outcome.As a senior Lok Sabha MP put it, "When we win, there is a celebration committee. When we lose, there is a probe committee. The faces are always the same and so are the findings."