On November 30, 2016 Magnus Carlsen from Norway defended his World Chess Championship against Sergey Karjakin from Russia with a magnificent checkmate to end the 16th game of the match. It was a magnificent checkmate because he sacrificed his queen to win the game. (If he would not have sacrificed his queen, he would have been defeated on the very next move, Karjakin just didn’t see the sacrifice.)
Chess is not the only place where strategic sacrifices are made. Clever politicians make significant sacrifices to win their own games like Mr. Rahul Gandhi and Indian National Congress just made one.
Did Rahul Gandhi by filing nominations from Wayanad, Kerala sacrifice 2019 to win 2024 or the one after?
You must have already heard a lot of speculations as to why he filed from there. Congress for example says “it was a popular demand from the south” or “the move is going to uplift the morale of the party in Kerala” they even compared his move to PM Modi’s move when he filed his nominations from Varanasi in 2014. BJP on the other hand says “Mr Gandhi is looking for a safe seat as he is going to loose Amethi, as his vote share is consistently falling (from 71.78% in 2009 to 46.71% in 2014 and victory margin reduced from 3,70,198 to 1,07,903) and that of Mrs. Irani increasing” or “Mr. Gandhi chose Wayanad because the demographics support him.”
However, these speculations and justifications don’t answer a very critical question.
How did the INC zeroed on Wayanad, Kerala? Why Kerala? Why not Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh or Telangana or Tamil Nadu or north eastern states like Assam or West Bengal? My point is that the reasons/justifications given for him choosing Wayanad stand true for these states too. Why not a constituency in one of these states?
If the intentions were to help the party and uplift the morale, he could have contested from a constituency in Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh, where INC scored 0 out of 39 and 25 respectively. He could have contested from Karnataka, which is in a terrible crisis with JD(S) and Congress’ coalition government. The government literally is in a mess, the MLA’s are being traded, kept in hotels even today. Or even from any of the states where the party surfed on thin ice in 2014 like Telangana (2 out of 17), Assam (3 out of 14), and, West Bengal (4 out of 42), etc. But they chose Kerala where they had the highest vote share in the state i.e. 31.10% with highest eight seats out of ten. That is why, it would be unfair to compare his candidature from two seats with PM Modi’s candidature from Varanasi.
Because PM Modi, apart from his conventional seat and state, contested election from a state of strategic importance to the party. Not only the state had 80 LS seats, BJP was extremely weak in the state. It could only manage 10 out of 80 seats in 2009. Mr. Modi brought his charm and “wave” to the state along with 73 seats in 2014. However, in case of Rahul Gandhi, this is not the case. It is practically impossible to loose that seat because of the demographics. He does not do any good to the party by contesting from Wayanad from 2019 general election’s perspective.
Moreover, Wayanad Kerala is not the only “safe” constituency. There are several states where Muslim population is more than 30%. J&K has 33.45%, Assam has 34.22% WB has 27.1% which is going faster than twice the rate of growth of any other religious community. These are just a handful states to mention. There would at least be a few districts/constituencies in these states where Muslims would be in majority.
On the contrary this decision of choosing Wayanad Kerala, is going to hurt the party in this general election. First, putting a lot of weight in Kerala would impact CPI adversely. CPI managed its lone LS seat in 2014 from Kerala and is struggling to keep its national party status intact. This “a bigger fish eating a smaller fish” in turn will dent the so-called ‘the grand alliance’ (Mahagathbandhan). Second, their state ally – Indian Union Muslim League’s flag although slightly different from that of Pakistan (the crescent moon faces the other direction) would amplify INC’s pro-Pakistan stance. Which is why they wanted IUML to not use their flags in the rally.
In short Congress sacrificed 2019 elections at the last moment. But why? Congress is simply too experienced to not have seen these factors. It was a calculated move. They knew what they are sacrificing.
Kerala is a state with exceptional strategic importance like no other state for Congress. Why? How?
Kerala has all the right ingredients. It has three religious communities with more than 15 percent population: Muslim (26.56%), Hindu (54.73%) and Christians (18.38%) as per 2011 census, as of now the numbers would be quite different and surprising for many. Owing to the socialist and communist proclivity of the state INC would fit in the state pretty easily. The party who manages to get a lead in the state would automatically look secular. It does not matter how the party managed the lead.
Now the most important aspect of Kerala; the simmering Sabarimala Issue. In a few years from now, Sabarimala temple would be an issue like Ram Temple in UP. Why? Simply because in the current circumstance, Congress finds itself cornered when it comes to Ram Temple. BJP is fully invested and committed to build a massive temple at the disputed site. However, INC, on one hand is trying to halt this process by employing a variety of tactics (inside the court and outside the court) and on the other hand is trying soft Hindutva approach for instance by portraying themselves as Janeu Dhari and Dattatrey Gotra etc.
The party is now left with a little room to maneuver. They now need a new narrative to showcase themselves secular. Sabarimala solves this problem for them. In a few years from now, when BJP, who at present has negligible presence in the state would rise up for the rights and emotions of Hindus, the then intellectuals would credit BJP of creating a communal divide in the name of Sabarimala temple. And Congress would retain its secular title.
Suggested read: Hinduism: A persecuted religion (Sabarimala)
Good and bad always come in pairs, to experience and understand good, one has to have experienced bad. Likewise, secular and communal also come in pairs, to show a party secular and assert its importance, you need someone to look communal or ugly.
The today’s so-called secular-liberal-intellectuals think that BJP used or rather is using Ram Temple for their politics. However, they forget that the issue existed in 1850s when BJP did not even exist. The issue existed in 1930s when BJP was nowhere around. The British Raj along with the Congress rebuilt the domes when they where destroyed in 1934, again BJP was nowhere to be seen. When it comes to independent India, the cases were filed in the ’50s, BJP was not around. BJP did not even exist but Indian National Congress had always been there, manipulating the issue for its own benefit. If anything at all, BJP is the victim of Ram Temple issue. The issue was carefully nurtured, what we saw in the ’90s was a result of what was done year after year for decades.
Suggested read: Ayodhya Dispute: An unresolved symbolical confrontation
This exact scenario would be repeated, only this time it would be in Kerala. This is the only reason why Mr. Gandhi has filed nominations from a constituency in Kerala. This move diverts all the attention from UP to Kerala. Kerala would become the epicenter of Indian Politics moving forward. It would determine the nation’s mood. This marks a beginning of a new innings.
Congress is a politically astute party, they know they are going to lose 2019 anyhow, it is better for them to start looking beyond 2019.
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