Momentum broken, Congress back to drawing board, on campaign, allies

With the Pulwama terrorist attack and the Indian Air Force strikes inside Pakistan breaking the momentum of its campaign against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress is back to the drawing board. But while the grand old party appears to be still cagey about the political fallout of the BJP’s campaign playing on nationalistic sentiments — remarks made by some Congress leaders have not helped either — it has slowly started hitting back.

There are also some indications that the party could reach out to the Samajwadi Party and BSP in Uttar Pradesh and rethink its decision not to align with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi in the changed scenario. “The whole narrative changes. We have to plan everything again, both campaign and other tactics. We have to re-calibrate everything,” a senior Congress leader told The Indian Express.

On February 13, a day before the Pulwama attack, Rahul Gandhi had said at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting, “We are defeating the BJP in the daily news cycle and the Congress is now firmly entrenched in the mood and spirits of the people.” The Congress believed the Opposition had built up crucial momentum against Modi over issues like the Rafale fighter jet deal, the job crisis and farmer distress.

But, the Congress admits, that “domination” over the BJP in the news cycle has been broken with Pulwama. The challenge for the party now is to bring back the narrative to political and governance issues, on which it can pin down the government.

Meanwhile, it is trying to do a delicate balancing act over Pulwama and the air strikes to ensure that the BJP doesn’t have an open field in the media, by supporting the armed forces while questioning the politicisation of the entire episode by Modi and the BJP.