Congress counters BJP’s poor tactics with flawed strategy (Comment)

By Arun Anand, IANS
Sunday, December 26, 2010

The ongoing battle over the issue of corruption, between the two main political parties of the country - the Congress, which leads the ruling coalition at the centre, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party - reminds one of this famous observation of Sun Tzu, the 6th century Chinese military strategist, who said “strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory; tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

The BJP is gunning for the top brass in the Congress over the issue of corruption. At a rally in New Delhi its leaders launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Earlier, along with other political parties, it created a logjam in parliament’s winter session demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam.

The strategy is clear: nail the Congress over corruption. But the party has adopted poor tactics.

Notwithstanding the aggressive posturing by BJP leaders in its first major rally over the issue in New Delhi, the empty stands indicated its biggest problem - failure to mobilise masses. This a larger problem and without resolving it the BJP cannot translate its political aggression into mass support.

Another tactical mistake is that the BJP is making no attempt to take forward the floor coordination among opposition parties forged in parliament during the winter session to corner the government over the spectrum scam. It needs to learn its lessons from the impact of the joint opposition rallies over the Bofors scam in the 1980s.

A major tactical error was committed by the BJP the way it handled the Wikileaks expose which had embarrassed the Congress over “heir apparent” Rahul Gandhi’s remarks to the US ambassador regarding Hindu elements being a greater threat to the country than Islamist terrorism. The BJP targeted Rahul Gandhi on this issue.

As the BJP was found training its guns on him, the Congress, which was forced to take a defensive posture on a series of corruption deals, gathered its act to back Rahul Gandhi and hit back hard. By the time the BJP realized its mistake and started focusing back on corruption, the Congress had launched a blitzkrieg.

So, at its three-day plenary session at Burari in Delhi, the Congress leadership, which was not so vocal over its rejection of a JPC probe into the 2G scam, decided to hit the BJP where it hurts most.

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, who is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi, raked up the demand for investigating the role of the BJP’s ideological mentor - the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - in at least three terror incidents.

Over the next two days, Congress president Sonia Gandhi backed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was feeling the heat of political controversy over the issue of 2G scam.

Sonia Gandhi also unveiled an agenda for “clean government”, promising strict action against the corrupt, to blunt the BJP campaign. The Congress further sharpened its attack on the BJP, raking up corruption charges in BJP-ruled Karnataka.

The tactics were excellent and they succeeded in rattling the BJP. But the problem here is with the strategy.

The Congress strategy has remained confined to cornering the BJP by launching a counter attack. But this could prove to be a strategic blunder in the next few months.

Raking up corruption issues in Karnataka indicate a flawed strategy. If the BJP government in Karnataka faces allegations of corruption, that can be no reason for the Congress to justify the corruption cases at the centre. In public perception, the less corrupt is as guilty as the most corrupt.

The Congress is still not able to convince the common people why it is not ready to accept a probe by the JPC if it has nothing to hide, given the fact that the JPC would be headed by a Congress MP. The excuses given so far would fail to cut much ice with voters in five states that will have assembly polls over the next few months.

The flawed Congress strategy could influence the results in the five states. It would not be wrong to say that the Congress is yet to formulate a strategy to redeem itself from the humiliating defeat in Bihar.

The biggest strategic gamble taken up by the Congress is raking up the issue of ‘Hindu terrorism’ and targeting the RSS over this. The Congress leaders seem to be underestimating the strength of this rightwing organisation, whose active membership runs into millions with significant support from large sections of the middle class.

Many veterans in the Congress feel that this issue might not appear to be politically explosive now but could prove to be the double-edged sword in days to come. Then the Congress would have no one but itself to blame if it gets hurt politically.

(26.12.2010 - Arun Anand can be contacted at [email protected])

Filed under: Politics

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