The Congress has scored big in the latest round of bypolls, crucially without its big guns, just four months after its worst performance in the Lok Sabha elections.
Tuesday’s results perhaps show that the Congress can afford to be less dependent on its ‘high command’ in poll campaigns if it can build a strong regional leadership.
Another possible takeaway for the grand old party is campaign formulas can also work well if they are not centrally dictated.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had advocated this, albeit in a limited context of Dalit leadership, when he wanted to bring up 100 leaders every year.
The results will be heartening for the Congress, which also fared well in the last two bypolls after the national debacle despite a star-studded campaign that cost crores.
The relatively low-key campaign in the bypolls, where none of the top leaders was visible, at least in the frontline, has delivered more than a face-saver for the party.
Yes, the Congress has not turned around its electoral fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, the state which matters the most in Indian politics, and cut a sorry figure in West Bengal, but there are big positives from Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The party’s morale will be up after wresting a total of six seats from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf Gujarat and Rajasthan — also BJP-ruled — and retaining one seat in Assam
This success comes ahead of the assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra.
In the last two rounds of bypolls, the Congress had managed to retain its seats and, with the help of allies, halt the BJP’s march in Bihar.
These victories give the Congress a chance to retain its relevance in the opposition space. The combined results of all three phases of bypolls, coming at a time when the party is struggling to be the leader in the opposition quarters, perhaps indicates that no anti-BJP alliance is complete without Congress.
But the limited victories also show the Congress that its UP organisation desperately needs to find its footing between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party.