It has again become Sonia Gandhi’s responsibility to put together the broken pieces of opposition unity.
She successfully performed this task in 2004, thereby paving the way for the Congress’s return to power after nearly a decade. But, 13 years later, the job has become far more difficult. For one, the Congress president’s principal opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has become politically a great deal more secure as well as uncommonly aggressive under a new leadership unlike in the time of Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani.
For another, the Congress has become weaker and demoralised after its drubbing by the BJP in 2014. Its reputation has also suffered because of the corruption charges it faced during its tenure in power in the 2004-14 period.
For Sonia Gandhi, therefore, it is going to be an arduous endeavour to offer a serious challenge to the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo in the BJP. Besides, the Congress and the other opposition parties can be sure of their bases among the Muslims, who have had reasons to be fearful of the depredations of the gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes), and of the liberals among the Hindus who have been put off by the BJP’s orthodoxy in the matter of lifestyle choices.
There is little doubt, however, that any electoral success which these parties may enjoy will be by default. It will not be because they have been able to present the public with a widely acclaimed agenda for a new India.