During the general elections of 2024, the Congress is well positioned to serve as the “pole” around which a non-BJP front can be formed. Chidambaram asserted that the Aam Aadmi Party does not have much appeal outside Delhi, except in Haryana and Punjab.
As for the Congress, Chidambaram also stated that there are no such things as “silent” campaigns during a hard-fought election.
He also said that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) played spoiler in Gujarat in the same way that it did in Goa and Uttarakhand earlier this year.
Taking note of recent elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should consider the fact that the BJP was in power in all three, but lost in two.
“That is a major setback for the BJP. The victory in Gujarat, however important it may be, cannot obscure the fact that the incumbent, the BJP, was decisively defeated in Himachal Pradesh and MCD,” said the former Union minister. He noted that the Congress party won by a significant margin in Himachal, as well as the AAP party in MCD.
There may have been a small margin of votes in Himachal Pradesh, but the election was not a state-wide presidential election. As a constituency-based election, it is important to examine the margins in each constituency,” he stated.
Many of the 40 constituencies won by Congress had significant margins of victory. In a constituency-based election, a state-wide margin is inappropriate,” Chidambaram said in response to the PM’s comparison of the Congress and the BJP’s vote share in Himachal Pradesh.
When asked about the Congress’ debacle in Gujarat and its low-key campaign, Chidambaram stated that he was not completely familiar with the strategy, if any, that had been adopted.
As far as I am concerned, the Congress had little expectation of success in Gujarat. As a general rule, I believe that every party in an election should put its best foot forward and make use of all the available resources – human, material and digital,” he said.
It was the duty of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee to mobilize the best human resources available in the Congress throughout the country and use them in the campaign, he stated.
I also believe there can be no such thing as a ‘silent’ campaign during a hard-fought election. Despite the loss in Gujarat, there are lessons to be learned,” he stated.
Asked whether the AAP would challenge the Congress leadership of the Opposition block after winning the MCD polls in Gujarat and capturing about 13 percent of the vote, Chidambaram responded that the AAP’s win in the MCD election was not unexpected as it is the ruling party in Delhi.
In his opinion, the BJP carried the burden of 15 years of incumbency in the MCD, and the Congress was not a serious competitor.
It should be noted, however, that the AAP played a spoiler’s role in Gujarat, as it did in Goa and Uttarakhand in the past. “In 33 seats in Gujarat, the AAP dented the chances of the Congress,” Chidambaram stated.
AAP does not seem to have much appeal outside Delhi, except perhaps in Haryana and Punjab. It will be found that the AAP’s appeal diminishes as it travels further away from Delhi,” he said.
He emphasised that whether or not the AAP qualifies as a ‘national’ party is of little consequence.
Chidambaram was asked whether the Congress remains the fulcrum of the Opposition alliance for the 2024 elections, to which he replied, “Yes, the Congress is the best choice as the pole around which a non-BJP front can be organized.”
During his discussion of opposition unity, he said, “Opposition unity has always been difficult to develop and maintain. Do you remember the years 1977 and 1989? I think it is possible to forge unity for an electoral alliance if the Congress and the other parties undertake the task with humility and realism.” In regards to the results of the poll and their implications for the 2024 general elections, he stated that prior to 2024, there will be elections in several states, including Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, among others.
He said that the results of the three elections held recently in 2022 and the forthcoming state elections next year would set the stage for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
As Chidambaram noted, “the BJP’s performance and that of the Congress and other non-BJP parties in the state elections will undoubtedly play a significant role in determining the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections.”
It was his opinion that Rahul Gandhi made it clear at the outset that the purpose of the Bharat Jodo Yatra was not to reap political rewards during the recently concluded elections and whether it would pay any electoral dividends going forward.
“It had a long-term view and a larger set of objectives. As far as I was concerned, I did not expect the BJY to impact the election in a state where the Bharat Jodo Yatra did not travel. We will have to wait and see how it impacts the states through which it passes,” Chidambaram said.
A record 156 seats were won by the BJP with a staggering 52.5% vote share, dwarfing the opposition Congress and the AAP, which garnered over 27 percent and about 13 percent, respectively. In the election, the Congress won 17 seats while the AAP won five. Three seats were won by independent candidates and one by the Samajwadi Party.
Among the 40 seats won by the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, 43.9% of the vote was cast in their favor. It was the BJP that won 25 of the seats with a 43 percent vote share, while independents won three seats.