Though it was expected, it happened in a way that was unthinkable even for the diehard critics of the Grand Old Party of India, the Indian National Congress.
Congress was expected to spring some surprise, not only by the estimates of Congress, but by others as well. While the polls were giving the party 5-8 seats, Congress’s own estimate was around 10-12 seats.
But Ajay Maken’s realization – from ‘we will score and spring a surprise’ to ‘we will respect the mandate and would play whatever role public would want us to’ – even before the results were out – conveyed Congress had already accepted its doom in Delhi’s politics – with the projections of exit polls predicting a rout for the party – not giving it more than five seats. Some polls even said that party would fail to win even a single seat.
And Congress failed to win even a single seat.
And the pounding is so severe that even reading the riot act is not expected to help the party now. Not only its vote share came under 10%, 62 of its candidates failed so miserably that they lost their deposits. And it included names like Ajay Maken, party’s chief-ministerial nominee – the candidates who were expected to win based on their name and work
Delhi is yet another marker in the downward journey of the Congress party. It has already been pushed to the margins of Bihar’s politics, where elections are due later this year, and ‘becoming politically irrelevant in Delhi’ will certainly exacerbate the process of the party becoming irrelevant in other states as well.
After scoring a historic low in Lok Sabha polls with just 44 seats, Congress performed even more miserably in different assembly polls of 2014.
In Andhra Pradesh, it could not open its account.
In Telangana, the state it created to reap its act’s political windfall, it was down by 30 seats to 21 seats in the 119 member strong assembly.
In Odisha, it could win only 16 of 147.
In Maharashtra, where it ruled for three terms, the party came third with 41 seats of 288.
After ruling Haryana, it was pushed to the third spot with only 15 seats.
Similar stories were repeated in Jharkhand and J&K where the party was pushed to the fourth spot by the electorate with abysmally low numbers.
In further misery, reports from Jharkhand say Congress is on the verge of split with four of its six MLAs ready to join BJP. Add Delhi debacle to the list.
The grand fall of the Grand Old Party of India is proving unstoppable.
What it tells us about the scale of the fall of the Congress party?
Even after piling up electoral losses and winding up influence, Congress has failed to go beyond mere rhetoric.
Some resignations are offered. They are swiftly denied. And the army of spokespersons is deployed to shield the Nehru-Gandhi family. Rahul Gandhi did have accepted the responsibility of debacles in past but the acceptance never followed the corrective action.
Going beyond rhetoric means Congress needs to question Rahul Gandhi who has been leading the party in elections for quite long now – and his record has been more than questionable. After the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Congress has seen its base shrinking on an epic scale in Indian politics. In the name of states having more than ten Lok Sabha seats, Congress has just three – Karnataka, Kerala and Assam. It has no MLA in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and now in Delhi. It has been pushed to the third or fourth spot in many states.
In the Hindi heartland states that decide the direction of Indian politics, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with 120 Lok Sabha seats, Congress has become almost irrelevant.
In Uttar Pradesh, Congress could win just two seats – of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi – in 2014 Lok Sabha polls with just 7.5% of votes. Though it saw some improvement in the 2012 assembly polls from 2007, with 28 seats in 11.65% vote share, it was just yet another humiliating poll outcome for the party in the state – it remained fourth in the 403-member assembly. In Bihar, party could win just 4 assembly seats in 2010 polls with 8.4% vote share. In the Lok Sabha polls last year, Congress could win just two seats and there was certainly no point in drawing solace that its vote share remained 8.4% given the fact that the party had contested the polls alone. In West Bengal too, another big state, its vote share was around 9% – in 2010 assembly polls and in the Lok Sabha polls last year.
Now, with AAP’s emergence and victory in Delhi, the Congress has a direct threat to its future. The last time when we heard of Congress in Delhi politics was in December 2013 assembly polls that were being seen as a BJP Vs Congress contest. But after the polls, the underdog, Aam Aadmi Party, replaced Congress by emerging as the second largest party and went on the form the government with Congress’s support who could win just 8 seats. And, just after a year, AAP ate into the Congress vote pie in a big way bringing it down to 9% from 25% to sweep Delhi, even with its deserter tag and Kejriwal’s act of betrayal that left Delhi without a government for a year.
Segments that voted for Modi in Lok Sabha and assembly polls – middle class and youth – voted for AAP this time. The lower income groups were already in its fold. Muslims in these polls voted en-masse for AAP.
Muslims and lower income groups have traditionally been voting for Congress forming the major chunk of its ‘secular plank’.
As AAP has given a credible alternative to voters in Delhi, appealing to every section of the society, building thus a secular plank, and as AAP spreads beyond Delhi, something that is bound to happen with a spectacular Delhi show, there would always be this possibility that Congress would face an existential threat to its ‘secular plank’ nationally, and thus an existential threat to its political survival.
Congress needs a course correction that goes beyond rhetoric we all know. We also know that the steps should have been taken much earlier.
Don’t the Congress’s first family and other Congress strategists know it?
They do not want to question Rahul Gandhi and the first family, when even Rahul needs to question himself now, if they have to save the future of Congress. Also, given the Robert Vadra factor, the move to bring Priyanka Gandhi will prove counterproductive.
Congress must go beyond posturing in addressing its fall.
Even a day’s delay would exacerbate its misery.
Otherwise, Delhi would further dent Congress’s prospects on its organizational spread in country. Even the candidates who could have won of their name and work, lost because they were Congress candidates.
If Congress doesn’t act now, it would be staring at split, defections and mass exodus in coming days.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–/