Moving toward a Congress-free India?

Moving toward a Congress-free India?

Rajeev Sharma
The much-awaited results of five assembly polls in India have come and have thrown up a familiar picture — of an ever-dwindling Congress, the main opposition party, and a ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre, which keeps flourishing electorally at the expense of the Congress party.
The Congress has lost two more states which it ruled — Assam and Kerala — while it lost elections in bigger states like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu where it had contested in conjunction with senior pre-poll partners, the Left Front in West Bengal and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu respectively. The small consolation prize for the Congress has been that it has wrested power in the small union territory of Puducherry.
By all counts, the Congress has been dusted and the BJP has been victorious. It tells a sorry tale for the grand old party, as even after two years, the Congress has not been able to break the BJP’s stranglehold, normally a time when the incumbent party in power at the Centre starts getting weakening after spending two years in office.
It may be queer but it is factually correct — that whenever the BJP faces the Congress in a direct contest in a state, the Congress gets decimated. Ironically, whenever the BJP has faced regional parties in state elections since the general elections two years ago, it is the BJP, which has been at the receiving end.
That’s why you see the BJP losing Delhi and Bihar to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Janata Dal (United)-Rahstriya Janata Dal (RJD) combine where the Congress was a junior partner respectively.
Wherever it was a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress the latter was vanquished. This happened earlier in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and has now happened in Assam.
The lesson is simple. The electorate has repeatedly rebuffed the Congress and has made the BJP victorious wherever the two parties were in direct contest. But the BJP has found it virtually impossible to sneak past the regional satraps in electoral contests where the Congress has for long been marginalized.
With its historic win in Assam, the BJP has emerged as a truly national party. Gone are the days when one could say that the BJP is a party confined to Hindi-speaking states. Post Assam, the BJP can justifiably argue to the Indian voters that it has effectively replaced the Congress as the only national party.
This puts the Congress in an existential crisis. The results of the five assembly polls wouldn’t have been so jarring for the Congress if a non-BJP, non-Congress party had won in Assam. But the fact that it is the BJP, which has stolen the thunder of the Congress in Assam has rubbed salt in the wounds of the Congress.
Inevitably, it puts a big question mark on the leadership qualities of the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi who had proven to be a pygmy before the BJP’s Narendra Modi in general elections two years ago and continues to look like a spent cartridge even now. This will surely accentuate the chorus within the Congress for bringing Rahul’s low-profile and politically disinclined sister Priyanka in the party’s scheme of things to revive the moribund party.
A sorry fact for the Congress is that its geographic influence within the country as well as the vote share has been steadily declining while the BJP’s stock has been going up concomitantly.
As a result, the Congress now rules in only six states with just 7 percent of the country’s population while the BJP now governs 35 percent of India’s population in nine states. This paints a pathetic picture for the Congress. It has to undertake major surgery to address the problem, as mere cosmetic changes won’t help. Many senior leaders of the Congress like Digvijay Singh and Kamal Nath have already advocated this measure openly.
The Congress is at the verge of extinction. The BJP is on the verge of its much-vaunted slogan of having a Congress-free India. Modi and the BJP are grinning from ear to ear. The Congress leadership finds itself in a snake pit.
What happens when the make-or-break state assembly elections for Uttar Pradesh take place in less than nine months from now? If Congress were to lose UP, and worse from the Congress point of view, the BJP were to win UP, the Congress party’s chances for taking on Modi’s BJP in the 2019 general elections would be evaporated completely.
The Congress has to act fast and think out of the box. Perhaps the only master move left in its repertoire is to bring Priyanka Gandhi in active politics.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view