Congress stares down the precipice

Wiped out in one more state–Delhi. Reduced to junior partner in Jharkhand.  Fourth in Maharashtra. Failed to tap incumbency in Haryana. Edged to third/fourth places in Telangana, Odisha and Bengal. Unable to emerge out of the margins in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. Forever uprooted from Andhra Pradesh, once its strongest state. In Assam, a former Congress CM who calls for a new party to unseat BJP. Wrecked by factionalism in Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. In Chhattisgarh a new satrap has emerged giving Congress a consolation silver lining.

As it loses its footing in one state after another, Congress is also receding as a national alternative. For the moment, BJP is enjoying a spell of national hegemony much like Congress did until the 1980s. Regional parties will stiffly challenge BJP in the states but are not an attractive proposition in national elections. Reduced to a few states and with no leader with national connect, Congress fared just as poorly as regional parties in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

Congress’s version of nationalism and secularism is fast losing its sheen. Out of power for six years, Congress’s welfare narrative has dimmed into a distant memory and other parties are pushing welfare, freebies and incentives more effectively. Congress led by the staid Gandhis appears unable to stem the decline. They seem to be hoping for BJP writing its own epitaph but as many surveys during the Delhi polls tell you, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity remains undiminished and voters were clear they will vote for him in Lok Sabha elections.

It is clear Congress needs fresh leadership at the very top, young blood and infusion of non-dynasts. It must figure whether to adopt strategies like Arvind Kejriwal who sidestepped Narendra Modi completely in the elections unlike Rahul Gandhi who goes hammer and tongs against Modi with no gains to show for all his pains. Congress also needs a 24*7 politician at the helm which is beyond the capabilities of the incumbent combination of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

Last but not the least, a new Congress president has to build a better team. Many of the general secretaries Rahul Gandhi appointed made little effort to turn around the party units in the states they were given charge of. This is in contrast to BJP which made significant gains in many states where it was languishing in the margins. Perform or perish has to be the mantra.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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