New Delhi | 6th Oct 2012
Indian social activist Arvind Kejriwal | AFP
y hitting directly at the Nehru-Gandhi family, which has been the strong point of the Congress Party since 1947, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi seems to have begun a trend. He has been followed by Arvind Kejriwal, who targeted Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law, Robert Vadra. Thus far, the Congress has succeeded in insulating the family from personal attack. With the Modi-Kejriwal assault, the Teflon cover has melted.
For the Congress Party, holding Modi to a draw in Gujarat (by restricting his seat tally to two figures), is crucial to Team Rahul's strategy of winning back those states that have been lost to regional parties, some since the 1960s. Wherever there is a strong regional challenger to the Congress, minority voters have preferred such parties to Sonia Gandhi's, apparently in the belief that their particular interests would be better served by such formations. Another key objective of the minorities is to prevent the BJP from winning. Unless the Congress can prove itself better at this than regional parties, it is unlikely to win support. UP is the latest example.
Should the Congress do badly in Gujarat, its credibility as a party that can check the BJP would be severely affected, thereby strengthening the vote banks of its regional challengers. For the BJP, a convincing win in Gujarat is key in ensuring that its own regional parties do not get the traction needed to veto its own choice for PM. Should Modi get 117 seats or more, the JD(U) would be unlikely to persuade the BJP to avoid the Modi option, should the largest opposition party choose the Gujarat CM as its standard bearer for 2014.
Aware that Sonia Gandhi is the Congress Party's sole unsullied asset, Narendra Modi zeroes in on her, thereby setting in play a new ground rule, that Sonia Gandhi is no longer out of bounds in campaigning. With Arvind Kejriwal now going after Robert Vadra, the Nehru-Gandhi family is now going the same way as others in politics in India, which is to face charges relating to their integrity. Should Sonia Gandhi be found to be vulnerable to the charges that are multiplying against her, her party may face an existential threat, given the total identification between the party and the family. Modi and Kejriwal have opened a front that, if persisted with, spells the end-game for the Congress Party.
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