People are voting for Modi, not BJP: Mani Shanker Aiyer

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People are voting for Modi, not BJP: Mani Shanker Aiyer
Kasauli: Stressing that the strategy of keeping their narrative “anti-Modi” is a well-thought-of move by the I.N.D.I.A alliance comprising 28 opposition parties, Congress member and former Minister of Panchayati Raj, Mani Shanker Aiyer, says the ruling BJP has a much smaller share of public support, but owing to Modi’s admiration among the voters, the party has managed to garner impressive numbers.

“Therefore the targetting is just perfect. Also, so many of his claims are simply bogus, which must be brought to light by I.N.D.I.A through intense campaigns. The alliance should provide exciting alternatives that will ignite public opinion,” he told IANS during a special interaction.

The veteran Congressman feels it is a major achievement that so many parties have gathered together and announced an alliance. He adds that the Mumbai conclave was special as it was attended by Sonia Gandhi, who has been instrumental in “inspiring” different political parties.

“Now, we are getting the alliance on the same page in terms of seats over an adequate number. A lot of work is being done behind closed doors.”

Ask him what was stopping the opposition camp from coming together a little earlier and not when the general elections were just a few months away, and he asserts that everybody was wondering what the future held.

“There was a feeling that BJP seemed unbeatable. As far as the timing is concerned, I feel sometimes the paucity of time can be a positive element as it can ascertain quick decisions,” he told IANS on the sidelines of the recently concluded Khushwant Singh LitFest where he was invited as a speaker.

Admitting that the BJP and RSS have developed an extensive network of ground workers, and booth managers not just in urban areas, their traditional ground, but also far-flung rural territories, complete with an intricate feedback mechanism, this former Congress MP from Mayiladuthurai (1991,1999 and 2004) and special invitee to the Congress Working Committee adds this is what Congress could boast of before independence.

“Frankly, it is our cumulative failure over all these years that we have allowed Congress to come to this stage. Considering we are such an old party, there used to be this assumption that we were a voting machine — something the BJP is addressed as now. However, we could not have stayed in power for these decades if we did not have a strong organisation at the grassroots level.”

Mention Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia, and the assumption that the Congress is averse to giving young leaders a chance to steer the organisation, and he asserts, “I think that is total rubbish. As the MoS (Independent Charge) Corporate Affairs and MoS Communications and IT, Pilot saw the new corporate law through. Was he not made the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan? But he just did not have the required support among Congress MLAs in the state. They preferred the well-tried Gehlot. What could we tell the MLAs — ‘We are giving Pilot a chance just because he is young’? Gehlot has proven himself in the last five years that he was the right choice. And let us not forget, we won Madhya Pradesh before Scindhia decided to defect. Many of these so-called younger leaders you are talking about have proven to be extremely disloyal. Even if they had a grouse with the party, did they really have to join the enemy camp?”

In an age when most political parties consider hiring independent political strategists/advisers almost indispensable, a trend that shot Prashant Kishor to the limelight, the Congress leader says that while Kishor expressed interest in rebuilding the Congress, he demanded a place in the hierarchy.

“That was something completely unacceptable to us. He was lucky to have arrived at the political scene in 2014 with the technology that had never been used before — something which the BJP accepted immediately. Let us not forget that the current government’s victory in 2014 was largely due to the many mistakes made by the UPA. But what has he done after the West Bengal Assembly polls? He is wandering in Bihar, and I don’t think he has made any impact there.”

Attributing the Congress’ loss in the recent Punjab Assembly polls to Kishore’s advice, Aiyer says that when the Congress High Command took his assessment of former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, they did not realise that they were leaving a big gap in the state Congress.

“And the result is for everybody to see. In short, Kishor is not a genius. Yes, he did introduce and translate some US election technology here and made a big name for himself, but that lasted only till Mamata Banerjee’s victory in the recent West Bengal Assembly polls. He has been a spectacular failure post that,” says this Cambridge pass-out.

Despite Rajasthan’s history of changing state governments every five years like Himachal Pradesh, Aiyer opines that Congress will retain power in the state.

“BJP is completely divided house there, thanks to the fact that Vasundhare Raje’s opponents include Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. In Chattisgarh, Baghel has ensured huge popularity owing to multiple developmental schemes. And the people of Madya Pradesh have not forgotten that BJP toppled our elected government.”

Stressing it is premature to talk about the leader of the I.N.D.I.Alliance, the Congress member says it is for all the members to take a collective call.

While stressing the rise in Rahul Gandhi’s popularity ratings post the ‘Bharat Jodo’ yatra, he concludes, “The alliance will be his true test.”

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