When Modi told Congress how to take on BJP, and got an offer to join Congress

An old video clip has gone viral on social media that shows Congress leader Jairam Ramesh making an offer to Narendra Modi to join the Congress party, because he appeared impressed with the political analysis offered by Modi.

The clip is from the 1998-2001 period, part of the era when India had seen a string of coalition governments and political instability. The issue being debated appears to be – if the Congress party, then in opposition, would try to topple the BJP led government and form an alternative government with the ‘third front’.

Narendra Modi, then a general secretary of the BJP, surprises the panelists by saying that Congress was being honest and truthful when it says that it will not try to topple the BJP led government.

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When a surprised anchor asks him why he felt so, listen to what Narendra Modi says (in Hindi):

Narendra Modi says, that in his opinion, the immediate goal and strategy of Congress was to first eliminate the ‘third front’ and get back those votes in their own kitty, before they decide to take on the BJP directly.

This analysis is immediately followed by Jairam Ramesh making an offer to Narendra Modi to join the party. “If you want to leave the BJP, there is a vacancy for you in Congress,” he says.

Narendra Modi laughs off the offer saying he is from Sangh Parivar and Jairam Ramesh will have to answer (to Congress high command) for making such offers.

While it may appear to be a light-hearted interaction, this clip actually proves why Congress has been failing to take on the BJP of late.

In fact, Narendra Modi’s analysis – or should we say prognosis – about Congress’ strategy to take on BJP is far more relevant today. The fact that Jairam Ramesh quickly follows that up with an offer for Modi, even though in jest, betrays that even he understood that Modi was on the money.

Congress has become weakened not just because BJP has been growing, but because all the socio-economic classes it considers to be its traditional voters, are no longer with the grand old party. An overwhelming majority of those voters are with what was then called the ‘third front’.

Even now Rahul Gandhi keeps talking about Dalits, backwards, minorities, farmers, etc. but do these groups really consider Congress as their own party? Parties like Samajwadi Party, RJD, BSP, and other regional parties have a better hold on them. In Delhi, Congress lost their vote bank to the rookie Aam Aadmi Party.

Can and should Congress really take on BJP – now under the same Narendra Modi who told them at least 15 years back what their problem was – without getting back these votes?

Congress at best can take on BJP using ‘mahagathbandhan’ like strategy in Bihar, but the party that ruled the country like fiefdom for decades was relegated to playing a minor supporting role. That can’t be the strategy to revive the party.

Maybe Jairam Ramesh knows this truth even today, but that will mean telling Rahul Gandhi – whenever he returns from his holiday in Europe – that the party needs to focus on some vital issues before thinking of taking on the BJP directly.

However, telling the truth to Rahul Gandhi will require more chutzpa than offering Narendra Modi to join Congress.

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