The Congress may have found a way to draw some solace from the assembly election verdicts announced yesterday which were like a massive tsunami of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s electoral victory. After yet another round of electoral humiliation, the grand old party of India is trying to put up a brave face by highlighting the fact that it won three of the five states where polls were held. The party has scored an impressive victory in Punjab and has emerged as the largest party in Goa and Manipur.
It says while it lost one state in Uttarakhand, it won one in Punjab, has dethroned the BJP in Goa and is looking to retain Manipur after it emerged as the largest party by winning 26 of the 60 assembly seats on offer. But the BJP has outdone the Congress even here, in staking claims to form the governments in Goa and Manipur.
When we go beyond these mere claims to look for elements to substantiate them, we found them as empty claims which are nothing lame attempts to hide behind data manipulation, both in terms of numbers of states that the party claims to win and the geographical extent and population under its rule in the country.
THE PARTY MAY END UP WITH JUST ONE STATE
The Congress party has won a clear and absolute majority in Punjab with 77 seats in the 117-member strong Punjab assembly and 38.5% vote share and is going to form the government there under Captain Amarinder Singh.
But that is not the case with Goa and Manipur where Amit Shah, the BJP president, had claimed yeaterday that his party would form the government. Though the Congress has emerged as the largest party in both states, it is still short of majority with hung verdicts in both states. And the developments so far say that both of these states may actually end up with the BJP.
While the Congress is still contemplating its moves, the BJP has met the Goa Governor to stake its claim to form the government in the state. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will resign from the union cabinet to become Goa’s chief minister again. He had resigned from the position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet.
The BJP, the incumbents in the state, have won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members are needed. Congress needs four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needs eight. And it seems the BJP has arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.
The BJP claims to have support of 22 MLAs including three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and three independents. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from the development where its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh, who was claiming to form the government yesterday, was quoted saying today that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, senior BJP leader and Assam minister just tweeted to inform us that the BJP is going to stake claim to form the government.
Meeting her Excellency Guv of #Manipur Smt Najma Heptullah ji to stake claim to form a @BJP4India led Govt in state. #MissionAccomplished
In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, the ruling Congress party has won 28 seats while the BJP is trailing at the second position with 21 seats. A simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs.
Smaller parties like the Naga People’s Front (NPF) has won four seats, National People’s Party (NPP) has won another four seats and Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) has won one seat. All these are NDA constituents and have extended their support to the BJP in Manipur. The BJP is also claiming support of the lone independent MLA. That takes the tally of the BJP and its allies to 31, crossing the halfway majority mark in the Manipur assembly. Then there are reports that the lone All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) MLA is also supporting the BJP alliance and a Congress MLA has defected to the BJP camp.
So, in effect, based on the developments so far, the Congress has won just one states, i.e., Punjab, while losing two, i.e., Manipur and Uttarakhand.
SHRINKING AREA OF INFLUENCE
And even if we go by the Congress’ claim that it won three states, it will still add nothing significant to the spread of its influence – geographically as well as in terms of the human headcount. The Congress party has effectively lost the electoral space to act as a national alternative to the BJP.
The BJP and its allies were already ruling over 60% of India’s geographical area with 43% of its population before yesterday’s verdict and the sweep has taken it to around 70% of the landmass and 58% of the population. Even if we don’t count Goa and Manipur in BJP’s stable as of now, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand make BJP the ruling party of 15 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just five states with Karnataka as the only big state in its fold. The party has limited presence in another two states. The Congress has an alliance government in Puducherry while it is the junior-most alliance partner in Bihar’s ruling coalition.
In terms of the geographical spread, the Congress has shrunk to just 13% of Indian territory which houses the country’s 11% population. The BJP is now in all corners of the country, in north India, in central India, in south India, in West India, in east India and in north-east India, the footprint the Congress enjoyed earlier while the Congress has reduced to only few pockets.
If, in spite of all these bitter ground realities, the Congress leaders and spokespersons are still not ready to see the writing on the wall, no one can help in its revival to reclaim the past glory.