Veteran political journalist Devendra Mohan on the increasing relevance of Rahul Gandhi in Indian polity.
Until 2018 December, the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah led BJP looked unassailable. It appeared that the formidable combination of the two was up on its way to make a new political reality possible sans the Congress - a Congress-mukt Bharat making the Indian GOP irrelevant.
Then came the day of reckoning- three elections in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh which threw out the BJP from the driver's seat, making 'Pappu' victorious and Congress relevant once again to the Indian polity - even though with slender margins in MP and Rajasthan and with a thumping win in Chhattisgarh.
These wins, of course, were on the heels of two earlier elections to the Gujarat and Karnataka state legislatures, where the Congress lost by 22 seats in one, and in another, formed a coalition government, respectively.
While in Gujarat there were several factors at work in favour of the Congress to raise its seat tally, in Karnataka a quick thinking and speedy decisiveness helped the congress to become a part of the state government. The recent injuries sustained during Goa and Manipur where even after scoring better results, the Congress was bested by the BJP and its allies when it came to forming the government. Until then, The Modi-Shah duo continued to be 'invincible' and the Congressmen became more and more despondent.
But not Rahul Gandhi. A doughty character, he knew one truth: no matter what, the Modi- shah actually feared the Congress and its two leaders: Sonia and Rahul.
Rahul more than anyone else, also recognised the fact that the Congress was not finished even though it was disorganised, and to add to it, the party was left with limited resources in recent times.
Intelligence sources were asked to provide every bit of information on his movements and strategies. The powers that be were told that Rahul was getting into a combative mode and could start striking soon. First, with the war of words - jumla for a jumla, vituperative, if necessary. Rahul was ready to launch attack on the BJP duo which was strutting about in all corners of the country like the victorious Spanish galleon of yore - ready with its armada to attack.
Rahul was too ready, to attack. He was returning hope to the party cadres even though it was a long way to go. He was also gaining support in known and not-so-known quarters. Within no time, his presence had begun to prove that the Indian polity is no longer chained or enamoured by a one-man-show of 2014.
There were many calculations culled out from the ground reality. For example, the fact that MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh accounted for 65 Lok Sabha seats, 62 of which were won by the BJP in the 2014 elections.
Also, of the 233 Lok Sabha seats in which BJP had made a clean sweep, the Congress was the runner up.
Aware of this fact, Rahul and his team started working on a strategy to put brakes on the winning chances in the same constituencies to bring the numbers down to 160 to 180 to bring BJP down to its knees. If BJP were to get less than 200 seats, its fellow constituents will either refuse to become allies or look for other parties such as the congress or the Mahagathbandhan to remain relevant in Indian politics.
Even Mamata Banerjee, despite distancing herself from the congress, hopes and prays that the Modi-shah duo doesn't get more than 160 seats, thus somewhat fulfilling RaGa's aspirations to remain the main factor in these elections.
Rahul also knows that his game plans are obvious to his sworn enemies and hence they dread him.
Let’s patiently wait till May 23. But right now, he is a major factor to reckon with. And so are his game plans.
About Devendra Mohan: Fifty years in reporting and writing. Started with HT in Delhi in 1969. Has written for HT, TOI, The Statesman, Indian Express, Free Press Journal , Onlooker magazine, Blitz, The Daily, edited Newstrek Magazine, Eenadu, Newstime, Business India. Now contributing to Asian Affairs, a Magazine published from London