Exit polls suggest the Congress has been ejected from the pilot's seat without a parachute. It is now in free fall and nobody knows to what depth it would crash.
Everything that seemed unimaginable a few months ago now looks imminent. A humiliating defeat, the lowest-ever tally, a sharp
decline in vote share and the inability to reach double figures in any Indian state indicate Narendra Modi's dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat has been achieved.
Is this, then, the end of the Congress? Have voters performed its last rites? Let us first look at why it is difficult to predict the Congress will rise from the ashes of 2014.
One, it is notorious for its inability to rise after a serious beating.
Its record after the electoral reversals in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Bihar and even Uttar Pradesh conclusively proves that once the Congress is pinned to the mat, it stays there.
Two, its high-command is in decline. This election, barring a miracle, is the end of the Sonia Gandhi era of politics. Considering her own frail health and that of the Congress, it is unlikely that Sonia will have the strength and the will to guide the Congress after five years.
File photo of Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi. (PTI photo)
Rahul Gandhi, without mincing words, has been rejected for perhaps the nth time by the electorate. In his decade-long career, it is difficult to recall even a single instance where Rahul has delivered for the Congress.
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This election has once again established what has been known for years: Rahul is a failure.
Three, the Congress leadership in the states has been wiped out. Forget Delhi, look at the states. The BJP has Shivraj Chouhan, Raman Singh, Manohar Parrikar, Vasundhara Raje and many other powerful satraps. There isn't a single Congress leader around who is acceptable to the masses in the major states. In a country where politics is getting increasingly centred on personalities, the lack of charismatic leaders on the ground is a fatal handicap.
Four, its current rival is not a genteel statesman like Atal Behari Vajpayee but a street-fighter like Modi. If the bitter, personalised 2014 campaign is an indicator, the BJP leader will ensure that the Congress and the dynasty don't get a single opportunity to make a comeback.
He will try everything to turn it into a replica of the Congress in Gujarat - a meek, marginalized, leaderless rubble.
So, is it time to say ta-ta to the Hand?
Those gloating over the Congress' humiliation should not forget that the party has been here before on several occasions. In 1977, 1989 and 1999 too the Congress was on the precipice after serious electoral losses.
Let us revisit 1999. That year, the Congress was reduced to its lowest-ever tally. There was a question mark over Sonia's leadership after her inability to lead the party to a win in the second consecutive election. Its leadership in the states was in disarray and the BJP seemed to be on the rampage. Everybody was eager to write the obituaries of the party and the dynasty. What followed was not demise but ten years in power.
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Why? The answer is simple. In a democracy, dominance of a single party doesn't last for long. Promises are broken, hopes are betrayed, heroes turn into villains – Manmohan Singh, for instance, was a middle class icon in 2009-and leaders lose their charm and sheen.
History shows that India can start whining the moment it realises that it is not shining.
And when voters change their mind, every past sin of a political party is forgotten and forgiven. They find hidden virtues even in its failed leaders.
The 2014 elections have ensured that all major parties share the fate of the Congress. The Congress has been defeated, but it has been supplanted by the BJP, not a regional party. When the wheels of democracy turn, and turn they will after some time, voters will have just one option: the Congress.
That the Congress will bounce back is certain. The only question is how long it would take to rise from the dust of 2014. The answer is simple: rebirth of the Congress will coincide with the demise of the idea of Modi.
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