There was bound to be some collateral damage. After all, the BJP opened up with its heavy artillery to flatten the opposition in both Maharashtra and Haryana. And the worst hit is the party’s traditional rival, the Congress, which fell even as the first volleys were being fired. The uncharitable now describe the Congress as yet another regional party, and they are not far wrong.
After the seismic shock of the Lok Sabha elections, when the grand old party was reduced to a rump, it has behaved like a deer caught in the headlights as the BJP juggernaut steamrollered it in the recent assembly elections. Any sane political formation would be by now scrambling for answers as to what went wrong, who is to blame, which heads must roll, what policies need changing and so on. But not the Congress. Its spokespersons on television waffled on about how the BJP did not really win Maharashtra even as the saffron party has begun parleys to appoint the next chief minister. Excuses were made for the absent leadership, the ineffective campaign and the lack of any idea which could have gripped the imagination of the voter. The unfortunate part is that the Congress knows the problem that afflicts it and it also knows the solution, but somehow it feels that by not articulating anything, things will change for the better.
With other big ticket assembly elections coming up, if the Congress does not do some serious soul-searching right now, it will be decimated further. The Congress vice-president, who is meant to lead the charge, has not been able to come up with the winning formula and the Congress president has not taken enough course correction measures in time. The party has to at least function as an effective opposition and come up with alternative ideas to the ones being put forward by the ruling party. But defeat is something that is not new to the Congress. Each time it has made a comeback. But this requires hard work and leaders who can speak the language of the young voter.
The Congress has many talented people in its ranks. The leadership needs to draw on their expertise and experience now. It may seem a Sisyphean task for the moment. But unless it plans to throw in the towel for all time, the party has to start its uphill climb and prove its relevance to the polity once again.