How Rahul Gandhi wasted the opportunity that JNU fiasco created

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Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is known for not missing any opportunity to miss an opportunity. The role he has played at a time when the Narendra Modi government at the Centre is facing a serious criticism over the JNU fiasco is too limited. Whereas, Rahul could have really kicked off a campaign for the next set of Assembly elections and the 2019 Lok Sabha election at this time by building up on this issue.

On Wednesday, the Congress leader said: "I will speak but they [the government] will not let me speak because they are scared. They are scared of what I am going to say in Parliament so they will not let me speak." Did this remark speak of any significance? Does Rahul really want to make the JNU issue help revive his party inside and outside Parliament or is he just satisfied giving media bytes?

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Congress is predicted to lose three more states: JNU gave them a rope but was it used?

The JNU issue is a very significant one for the Congress. The party, which has been pushed to the fringes across the country, could lose power in Assam, Kerala and Karnataka in months to come. That will leave the party with smaller states like Himachal Pradesh and a few in the north-east and Bihar where it is part of the Grand Alliance which is in power now. But yet, before the disaster really strikes, there is hardly any effort seen from the top leadership to boost the party's psyche.

The Congress's top leadership is ignoring two important steps at this moment.

Congress needed to take the lead in forming an anti-NDA coalition now

First, the party has a great opportunity now to lead an anti-NDA coalition by capitalising on issues like suicide of Rohith Vemula, crackdown on students in JNU and the Jat agitation in Haryana. This is the time when the Congress should have approached parties like the BSP and Left on sensitive issues like targeting Dalit and Left-minded students. It could also engage the Haryana Janhit Congress, which had a bitter break-up with the BJP after the 2014 Lok Sabha election, in Haryana in the wake of the Jat attack which has left the Manohar Lal Khattar government in a tricky situation.

On Wednesday, the BSP raised Vemula's death issue in Parliament. Did the Congress think of backing it in both Houses of Parliament and engage with the Modi government constructively? Useless noise in the name of protest will not earn the party anything.

The Congress should have sealed an election alliance with the Left after the JNU fiasco occurred for this incident had every potential to revive the Left activism in the country.

The party could have also used this opportunity to seal an alliance officially with the Left for the Bengal polls and moved closer to AAP's Arvind Kejriwal. A call for unity would have rattled the NDA for sure.
But Rahul Gandhi, instead, was making some strange remarks about his wish to speak but facing hindrance from the government. Nobody will lay out red carpets for you Mr Rahul even if you belong to India's 'first family' in politics.

High time for Rahul Gandhi to embark on a national mission

The other step that the Congress could have taken now is a country-wide march to mobilise support in its favour by campaigning against the hyper-nationalist sentiments and the polarisation we all saw recently. In the early 1990s, Lal Krishna Advani gave a history-making push to the BJP by mobilising the majority support through his chariot campaign, something that changed the political discourse in India in later years.

Couldn't Rahul Gandhi do something similar to raise a counter-sentiment against the majority sentiments that are being misused politically today? Given the Congress's centrist legacy, it wouldn't have lacked support had Rahul Gandhi made a move for a far-reaching march across the length and breadth of the country.

But the Congress didn't succeed in visualising anything like that. May be, India's grand-old party is too tired to make a comeback.

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