Battle won, war ahead

There is much bonhomie and celebration in opposition circles about the deal between the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka. But, even as leaders of major regional parties congratulate the alliance and become part of the festivities in Bengaluru, there are murmurs within the Congress.

Congress leaders in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Odisha are cautioning against too much fraternising with regional opponents. Even though these leaders accept that the BJP is their common foe at the national level, they are at odds with regional parties in their states.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his team have to discern whether the backslapping by regional leaders is more for the JD(S) than for the Congress. That is because the Congress is not part of the recent pact between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, nor has it found common ground with Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. Whatever is left of the Congress in Andhra Pradesh leans more towards Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress than Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party. The Congress and the TDP had been direct competitors in undivided Andhra Pradesh since 1983.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

Even though Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K. Chandrashekar Rao played host to MLAs belonging to the Congress and the JD(S), who were seeking shelter from a marauding BJP in Karnataka, his equation with the Congress’s Telangana unit is not rosy. In Kerala, the Congress and the CPI(M) are direct rivals, unlike in West Bengal, where the two parties are comfortable with each other.

But, the developments in Karnataka and the spirit of unity against the BJP may prompt Rahul to reassess his party’s tie-ups. There is a feeling that senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot, who outsmarted the BJP in Karnataka, should form the nucleus of the team that would look for pre-poll alliances and adjustments in as many large states as possible.

In Maharashtra, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have agreed to revive their anti-BJP alliance, which was torn apart during the 2014 assembly elections. In Tamil Nadu, however, the rift between the Congress and the DMK has not been bridged. There is uncertainty, with the split in the AIADMK and the potentially damaging entry of film stars Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan into electoral politics. In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is isolated after its alliance with the Samajwadi Party failed to click. But, its alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha have been reaffirmed.

Still, unseating Narendra Modi would be an uphill struggle for the Congress. First, it has to campaign hard to demolish BJP bastions in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the winter round of assembly elections. For now, though, it can bask in the euphoria over the tactical victory in Karnataka.