In 2014, when Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to get majority in the Lok Sabha election in India, several thousands of new-age Indians believed that it was the end of the Indian National Congress (INC), the country's grand-old party.

Two-and-half-years since Modi became the prime minister of India, perceptions have started changing, thanks to the demonetization project of the overconfident ruling party. As the common man of India continues to suffer because of the sudden decision to scrap denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000, the Opposition found a rare opportunity come back and it is now finding INC vice-president Rahul Gandhi as the pivot to strengthen the fight against Modi and his party.

Rahul Gandhi, 46, has become the natural choice as the face of a probable alternative to the Modi regime since other Opposition leaders are too local to have a pan-Indian appeal. The surname of ‘Gandhi’ is indeed a positive for the INC leader in this context.

But that is not all. The Modi government, through its demonetization program, has sent across the message that it believes in the politics of exclusivity. The call for demonetization has attracted mostly the urban population who are better-placed to use alternatives to cash for their daily transactions. Even after facing a big backlash over the demonetization scheme which has left a big section of the Indian population dissatisfied, the Modi government tried to pacify the anger by pointing out an online survey in which people overwhelmingly voted in favor of the decision.

But the fact that the survey included only five lakh people in a country of over 80 crore voters reiterated that the Modi government has taken too many for granted.

In 2004, the BJP paid for its overconfidence

Rahul Gandhi, thus, has a massive room to improve his prospects ahead of the next Lok Sabha election in 2019.

History, too, has evidence that the BJP is a party which takes the face value very seriously and pays for it dearly. In 2004, the party became too overconfident over slogans like “India Shining” and “Bharat Uday” and brought the elections ahead thinking it was perfect to win the mandate again. But even its popular prime minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee could not stop what was imminent and the party was rejected by the disgruntled voters who were not really touched by the 'shining'.

The Congress, which last had a Gandhi leading it in 1991 and was out of power since 1996, saw a revival under Sonia Gandhi and eventually won back power in 2004 for it was considered a better alternative to the exclusive politics of the BJP. The first term of the Congress-led UPA government saw the party emphasizing on inclusive economic models, thanks to Sonia Gandhi’s Left-leaning stance, and it was rewarded with another victory in 2009. But things went downhill from there on and Modi rose to power.

It is risky to rule only a section of India

But it seems Modi and his party are hell-bent to repeat the mistakes of the past. Being an urban-centric, business-oriented, tech-savvy party, the BJP suits well to the imagination of India’s middle-class which is getting more empowered and ambitious and finding the Congress a less reliable vehicle to fulfil their 21st-century dream.

But in an over-enthusiasm to cater more to that class which is considered the propelling force for today’s liberalized India, the BJP leadership is turning its focus off the section which is bigger but has less socio-economic advantage. This has opened an opportunity for the Congress to tap into the vast socio-political resources that the BJP fails to see and make a comeback, just as it had done in 2004.

The Congress has a natural constituency in the furthest corners of India even in these days of its decline, thanks to its Nehruvian legacy of centricism. To outdo that legacy, Modi needs to go beyond the five lakh that the survey for demonetization had covered.

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