Road to 2024: Congress has exclusion list; satraps remain bagpipers

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, January 21: The Opposition is not yet smitten by the 2024 Lok Sabha elections fever. Congress has a clear exclusion list, as the party gears to work up at the polling booths for the next few months after ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. Regional parties remain regional.

Congress communication department chief Jairam Ramesh recently spoke of a negative list of the political parties who have not been invited for the concluding ceremony of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, which is being projected by the party leaders as a ‘Bhagirathi’ exercise to infuse life in the grand old party. Congress had been a sparring political outfit until Rahul Gandhi slipped into a t-shirt and jogging trouser to begin walking.

In politics, walking pays rich dividends. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy returned to power after a state wide walk in the state. For the BJP, electoral muscles were gained by riding ‘Raths – Somnath to Ayodhya (LK Advani) and Kanyakumari to Srinagar (Murli Manohar Joshi)’. Congress had abandoned walking after Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead during prayer in Delhi in 1948.

After walking Congress has a few gains to count, which include traditional allies returning warmth (National Conference), while the likes of Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party would stay as allies in Maharashtra. The Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar would stay with Congress. Left parties are warming up to the post-2004 Lok Sabha elections scenario with Congress. The DMK in Tamil Nadu would stay a loyal ally of Congress.

Also, the G23 within Congress consisting of the disgruntled elements is now buried. The Hoodas walked with Rahul Gandhi in Haryana. Ashok Gehlot knows there is no future beyond Congress. Congress even while being in the abyss commands over 17 per cent of the vote base in the country.

But Congress has made it clear that the party has an exclusion list for the future roadmap for the alliance politics. “I can tell you who we have not invited. We have not invited Arvind Kejriwal (Aam Aadmi Party), Badruddin Azmal (Assam), KCR (K Chnadrashekhar Rao of Telangana Rashtra Samithi), Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), Asaduddin Owaisi…,” said Ramesh to Raj Chengappa of India Today. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party leaders were invited to join the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, but they chose to stay away for obvious reasons.

The regional parties, who are in the exclusion list, are nursing their own aspirations to become king makers in the event of a hung Parliament after the 2024 Lok Sabha elctions. Banerjee is busy in the Northeast to expand the party footprints. KCR is splurging his political capital with show of strength as seen in the Khamman rally in Hyderabad this week.

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