‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ was an impactful, ambitious, and outrageous promise made by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before the 2014 general elections. With the 2019 elections around the corner, the slogan has found a renewed fervor supported by the record low number of Congress-controlled seats left in the Legislative Assembly. The idea of a sans-Congress nation was not a delusion, to begin with. For instance, in Tripura, Nagaland, and Delhi, the BJP’s influence was not required to cleanse the state’s seats in the Legislative Assembly from the Congress; local, relatively new, and highly aggressive parties successfully displaced the Indian National Congress (INC). Tripura reportedly saw Congress plummet from representing 10 of 60 seats in 2013 to none in 2018 (Vij, 2018). Furthermore, in Nagaland, its seats dropped from 8 out of 60 in 2013 to none in 2018. Similarly, despite retaining dominance for three consequent terms from 1998 to 2008, the Congress concluded the 2015 Delhi assembly elections with 0 seats in hand, while the newly conceived Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won 67 of the 70 seats. The new is visibly beating the old, even if the most powerful party in the nation’s politics.
While Narendra Modi advocated for making the nation Congress-mukt, the BJP continued expanding its power over the Lok Sabha in contradiction of what the party meant by ‘Congress mukti.’ In an interview with Times Now, the Prime Minister stated that according to him, being Congress-free meant “becoming free of a culture that promotes casteism, corruption, treachery, exploitation, and keeping complete control over power.” While the ‘corruption’ and ‘keeping complete control over power’ clauses may hold some truth when being attributed to the Congress due to the party’s nature post Independence, for the BJP’s religion-oriented agenda of political mobilization, claiming that the Congress needs to cleanse itself of casteism is hypocritical. Moreover, with the BJP governing 22 states in India either directly or through alliances as of May 2018, the party is dangerously close to keeping complete control over power rather than not. It can be argued about specific claims that the BJP has accused Congress of, BJP may well be more like Congress than Congress itself.
The recent Karnataka elections are a testament to the Congress’ resilience. Through the party’s willingness to forge relationships where there haven’t been any for decades, the Congress managed to construe the election outcome in their favor. Even though BJP held the numbers, the Congress went ahead and toppled was nothing but a rushed attempt at establishing local government by the BJP. Whether either side, the BJP or the Congress, followed the ideals of democracy while seeking to establish government is an argument that cannot be won by either of them. However, what can be definitively determined from the outcome of the Karnataka elections is that no matter how lopsided the numbers or crooked the politicians, a party without the fair majority always possesses a small probability of forming the government. Furthermore, an even smaller party which is not even comparable to the numbers of the majority also possesses a small probability of appointing the state’s chief minister from amongst itself.
The situation in Karnataka is an embodiment, even a verbatim personification, of the late Pramod Mahajan’s speech on the nature of India’s democracy delivered in the Lok Sabha. He famously and humorously stated that Ramakant Khalap, despite being the only MP from his party, completed one of the most successful tenures as the Law Minister and that ‘he was the government by himself’ (Nanjappa, 2017). H.D. Kumaraswamy being appointed as Karnataka’s chief minister is a product of the Indian democracy that Mahajan rightly described. This facet of our democracy also ensures the Congress’ continued survival. This aspect of our democracy can be speculated to violate democracy itself, for regardless of the results of an election and irrespective of the candidate whom the people favored most, it is a power-play of numbers that determine who rules the state government. However, while the instrument of forming coalitions invariably ensures the survival of certain parties, it may even translate into the formation of an alliance at such a scale that it is capable of wiping out the most massive party currently in power.
A pan-Indian anti-Congress party could have severely affected the Congress’ influence on Indian politics as the BJP intended. However, the Congress thought of doing so first. With Karnataka as the first step, the Congress has begun taking steps towards preventing the political colossus that is Modi from winning the 2019 elections. May 2018 is seeing the inklings of a pan-India anti-BJP alliance focussed at dethroning Modi. A unification of the opposition at this scale is historical - it goes to show the extent of power exercised by and needed to oppose the BJP juggernaut. The BJP at this point needs to realize that if there is a claim for Congress Mukt Bharat, there may well be the possibility of a BJP Mukt Bharat. It can be argued on numerous grounds that the BJP has become more Congress-like than Congress itself. In its thirst for collective power over all states, the BJP has overlooked the fact that the various values it wishes to eradicate from the Congress can be found thriving within BJP itself. Society cannot always be distracted by outrageous statements from the BJP’s figurehead politicians. The BJP can choose to either cleanse itself of all the accusations it makes against the Congress, or be ready to be brought down to Earth by the nation. We stand at a milestone in Indian political history which may well establish the overbearing power of a single party over all others and indeed accomplish the task of a Congress-Mukt nation. On the other hand, we may also be reaffirmed of our Constitution’s democratic principles which ensure that no matter how powerful a single party, there always exists the possibility of its defeat.
Vij, S. (2018, March 07). A Congress-mukt Bharat is not impossible. In fact it is very easy to achieve. Retrieved from https://theprint.in/opinion/congress-mukt-bharat-not-impossible-easy-achieve/39755/
Nanjappa, V. (2017, March 14). Amidst Goa crisis, this Mahajan speech on 'single largest party' will crack you up. Retrieved from https://www.oneindia.com/india/amidst-goa-crisis-this-mahajan-speech-on-single-largest-party-will-crack-you-up-2373690.html
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