As parties in the Opposition I.N.D.I.A bloc make a bid to continue strengthening their bond within the bloc, there are growing murmurs about the possible PM face that the bloc will have in case the Opposition wins general elections. It is being said within political circles that the name of Nitish Kumar runs strongest when it comes to choosing a PM candidate. After the broad-based alliance was proposed by Kumar and after he had emphatically started pursuing a tie-up of all secular parties under one banner, talks about Rahul Gandhi having promised him to be given the top position in the country became open in case the alliance partners came to power at the Centre. However, several leaders are sceptical indicating that the PM candidate could come from a party with the highest number of seats.
Party insiders suggested that Malikarjun Kharge was also being considered as a potential player for the top role in highest political circles, yet the decision about Kumar leading from the front has more resonance because of his experience in governance and “clean image”. The party insider said, “We don’t know how Congress will perform. If it performs well in the upcoming Assembly polls, the party positioning will be much stronger than it is in today. And if our party brings more MPs to the alliance than expected, at the cost of BJP, reducing the saffron party to unexpected numbers, there could be rearrangement. Nothing can be said concretely.”
A Congress spokesperson in Bihar said, “We have an understanding in such a way that there could be announcement of PM after the bloc wins the elections. And it has also been decided that there would be no PM face or PM from Congress (if the alliance wins). That is for sure, because the top leadership may be of the view that they don’t want to run a government which is weak and made up of several parties. If one party backs off, the government will fall. So, it wouldn’t want to run the weak government.
Moreover, if we lose, it shouldn’t go down among people that it was Congress-led alliance which lost the elections again for the third time and further if the I.N.D.I.A bloc forms government and Congress heads it and then if it falls midway, it would be like Congress was unable to run the government, so we won’t run the government either.” The idea of Kumar being brought on the forefront, as claimed by party leaders, is not being done without forethought. The decision may have been taken after vigorous assessment by Rahul Gandhi’s team as a non-Congress face would instil more trust among alliance partners instead of a candidate from the grand old party. A political analyst said, “There is a history behind, which says that coalition governments which have been run by parties other than Congress have not been able to sustain their tenure. It is because a bigger party in alliance can manage smaller parties, but smaller parties cannot manage bigger parties. The Congress aim may not be at running the government, but to defeat the BJP so that they can break their dominance. And once that happens, they would expect the saffron camp to scatter which will make the Congress itself a big force in the country.”
Major players within the alliance, Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav, are said to be complacent with the concept of Kumar as a PM candidate rather than a Congressman. A political observer said, “We have often seen Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav greeting each other with vigour and respect; therefore, they would be coming forward with concerted efforts with regard to the alliance. Both have shown less keenness to ally with the Congress in the past and both are aware that more powerful Congress will mean weaker regional parties. Therefore, both will agree with Nitish Kumar to be the frontrunner than any Congress man.”