Indian National Congress is fading and it is fading fast.
Results of assembly elections to four key states and one union territory were declared on May 19, 2016.
The story was no different from what it was two years ago. A resurgent Left snatched Kerala from a corruption riddled Congress, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha retained their strongholds in Bengal and Tamil Nadu respectively and BJP opened their account in the North East.
But the one big takeaway from these assembly elections is that Congress has failed to regain any lost ground from the 2014 General Elections. Since 2014, every state where the Congress has been involved in a direct tussle with the BJP ,the former has been decimated. Congress has ceded power to BJP in Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and more in recently Assam. In the last 3 years, it has failed to win a single state on its own.
Congress today governs in only 6 states out of which 3 are in the North East and 2 are the hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The only major state where it has a government of its own is Karnataka. Together it governs only 7% of the Indian population compared to the 35% of the BJP. The mantle of being the only alternative to the BJP at the national level has also come under threat from smaller regional parties.
|State||Numer of seats||BJP||Congress|
BJP has made inroads into strong Congress bastions
Yet, the results have failed to bring in any change in the attitude of the central leadership, which continues to be in a mode of denial. It has failed to produce a single state leader with any sort of mass connect. While many can be seen along with the Central leadership at the national level, only a handful of them have strong voter bases in their own states. At a time when elections are becoming more and more personality driven, the party clearly lacks faces to lead.
The situation in Assam could have been avoided by the Central leadership. While the argument that the Tarun Gogoi government was facing 15 years anti-incumbency is a valid one, the party could have fared much better had it successfully held onto Himanta Biswa Sarma and the 9 MLA’s he brought with him to the BJP. Sarma reportedly was miffed at Gaurav Gogoi’s (Tarun Gogoi’s son) sudden rise among the Assam Congress ranks. The architect of BJP’s resounding victory, Sarma has accused Rahul Gandhi of failing to interact with him when he first rebelled and has even gone to the extent of claiming that the Gandhi scion was more interested in playing with his dog than listening to him. He has also labelled Congress as a party ruled by dynasties.
He is not the only former Congress-man to blame Rahul. Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahugana also claimed that Rahul is surrounded by a select group of people and fails to listen to other members of his party.
Digvijay Singh in a recent interview claimed that Congress needed “surgery”
The drubbing in Assam holds a lesson for Congress to be learnt- the nation is no longer going to vote for leaders whose only merit is that they were born in a certain family.
Congress’s organisational strength in key states like Punjab, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan is in shambles. It is fast ceding its pan-India image to the BJP. While it will be premature to suggest that India is “Congress-Mukht”, the fact that Congress today has been reduced to a marginal force cannot be denied.
Senior leaders, state heads and workers of the Congress party have expressed serious concern over the party’s consistent poor performances. There is an urgent need to fix accountability among the higher ranks. Leadership issue at the Centre needs to be sorted out as clearly Rahul’s “young team” and Sonia’s “old-guard” aren’t quite on the same page. India’s grand old party needs to promote more state leaders like K Siddaramaiah and Tarun Gogoi in states which lie on the Hindi heartland.
Elections in key states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab are due next year. Often regarded as a semi-final , the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections might very well decide who comes to Centre in 2019. Congress has roped in Prashant Kishor as their political strategist to oversee the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Reports of a rift between him and local Congress leaders have already surfaced. Apart from these three states, Rahul will also be desperate to hold onto power in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Karnataka.
Its high time Congress recognizes its failures and tries to work on it rather than continue to be in a state of denial. The grand old party is facing an existential crisis like never before and if it doesn’t get its act right soon, it might not be in power in any state come 2019.
Shashi Tharoor’s advice would work very well at this moment.
“Forget Introspection, Congress Needs Serious Action”