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Should the Congress Party Have Staked a Claim to Form the Government on 4 June?

Many believed that the INDIA bloc should not pitch for power till it had a majority in Parliament.

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Reduced to 240 seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) with the support of its allies will endeavour to prove its majority in the current session of Parliament with its muscular ways.

The question that will trouble many liberals who got excited by the parliament elections results and saw it as a heralding of a big change in Indian democracy is this — did the Congress party commit folly by not trying to form the government or is the next act of this Game of Thrones yet to unfold?

It all began when INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) bloc parties and its leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal, in what could be considered as PSYOP (psychological operations), tried to persuade fence-sitters to look beyond Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he, in their reckoning, was not returning to power after 4 June results. Better informed people believe that there was more to Rahul and Arvind’s categorical statements that Narendra Modi will cease to be PM after 4 June.

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There are many theories, one more credible than the other, which suggest that the BJP was indeed losing the battle to save their government after the parliament results started trickling in. For a while, it seemed that the BJP was finding it difficult to get the promised support from its allies to reach the majority mark of 272 out of 543 seats.

Informed sources claim that if the Congress party had expressed its intentions to form the government on 4 June or 5 June, the BJP’s allies would have deserted the party.

At that time, the ouster of the BJP, after being in power for two terms, seemed imminent. A massive campaign was launched that tried to show that the removal of Modi and the BJP was a national imperative and that the mandate of the polls was to be seen in this context.

These campaigns highlighted the fact that the BJP government and Narendra Modi should be denied the “punitive power of the state” so that a functioning democracy can be restored in society. It seemed the most logical outcome of the election in which the BJP, with all the “kings’ horses and all the kings’ men” had failed to win a majority.

There are allegations emanating from Opposition circles that about 50-odd seats were managed by the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA). In UP alone, where even the prime minister came precipitously close to losing, there were 16 seats where the BJP won due to the help rendered by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which ate up Dalit votes that were seemingly destined for the Opposition alliance's parties.

In other states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and even Maharashtra there have been similar allegations of voter manipulation and even preventing communities hostile towards the ruling party from voting. In other words, though the BJP’s total of 240 MPs surprised many, many election watchers claimed that the ruling party’s real strength in these elections was not above 150-200 seats.

Despite all these calculations, the BJP managed to come to power with little help from the Congress party’s reluctance to throw their hat in the ring and President Murmu’s alacrity in inviting Narendra Modi to be sworn in as prime minister without going through the parliamentary formality of the BJP electing its leader.

Fearful of how the BJP parliamentary party would behave in electing its leader, the party managers chose to hold a meeting of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to show they had the numbers, i.e., some 293 seats, which is 22 above the required number.

An alliance leader told me if the Congress party truly tried to form the government, then the INDIA bloc would have also come close to the majority number. “On 4 June, we had begun counting the number of MPs and we realised that we were very close. If the Congress had announced on 5 June that it was ready to form the government with the allies, then not just Chandra Babu Naidu, but even Chirag Paswan would have also supported the alliance,“ rued the leader.

“If the INDIA bloc had formed the government, then Arvind Kejriwal would have walked free after 4 June. Hemant Soren, too, would have been out of jail. Now it is going to be a tough task for them to get a favourable verdict,” he added.

The Congress party's decision not to form the government got the endorsement of many of those who believed that the INDIA bloc should not pitch for power till it had a majority. For many, BJP losing seats in the parliament was enough of a punishment for them. Many liberals believed that this debacle of sorts would have a chastening impact on the judiciary and other institutions, which have been accused of bias against minority communities.
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The belief was that the media, too, which had been peddling the nationalistic narrative of the ruling party, would get back to doing its job of reporting the truth rather than covering it up. In the last 10 years, the mainstream media had engaged in obfuscation, spinning false narratives and demonising those who spoke against the government.

What was also expected was that the frontal attack against the civil society organisations by the state agencies would lessen, but nothing like this seems to be happening.

Neither the media shows any visible course correction nor has the approach of the state towards civil society organisations changed. Activists like Harsh Mander have been served with more notices from the CBI, IT etc, after 4 June. Permission to prosecute Arundhati Roy has been granted by the lieutenant Governor of Delhi after 14 years. The big question is, why now?

As soon as the BJP government proves its majority, it will be business as usual for them. Election results will be remembered as just a hiccup to be largely forgotten. What we may see is the return of the agencies to keep not just Arvind Kejriwal for a long time in jail, but also to ensnare others to break parties and cannibalise allies.

(The author is the editor of Delhi's Hardnews magazine. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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