Another state, another debacle and the Congress' slide continues. The free fall that started in the Lok Sabha elections last summer has seen the party being decimated in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and now Delhi.
After ruling the city for 15 consecutive years, the Congress was relegated to third spot behind the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2013 assembly polls. The party retained that position in the Lok Sabha elections last year.
The Congress story continues in 2015 and an obliteration in Delhi will again put the leadership in the line of fire. Questions will be asked on the steps the top brass has taken to revive the party’s fortunes since the drubbing in the parliamentary polls.
There are no signs yet of any roadmap or a blueprint to put the party back on track despite Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi holding a series of meetings with central and state leaders.
While the AAP managed to resurrect itself within seven-eight months, the Congress has failed to reconnect with the masses.
Rahul’s leadership style is already being questioned by party leaders. His delayed responses to crucial issues and lack of participation in Lok Sabha debates are not doing him or his party any good.
“There is no substitute to hard work and Arvind Kejriwal has clearly shown that,” a senior Congress functionary said.
The AAP victory in Delhi has further weakened the Congress that conceded defeat even before the poll battle began. Knowing well that the Congress does not stand any chance, its traditional vote bank completely shifted to the AAP.
The party has a year or so to put its act together before the big election season in 2016 when five states — Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal — go to the polls. The Congress is in power in two of these states — Assam and Kerala.
Though elections will be held in Bihar this year, the Congress is a marginal player there, riding pillion behind the Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). The main fight in Bihar is between the BJP and the JD(U)-RJD combine.
For Rahul Gandhi, the major test before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would be Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur that go to the polls in 2017.
After Delhi, AAP’s eyes are firmly set on Punjab where both the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine and Congress are facing the heat. The AAP had won all its four Lok Sabha seats in 2014 from this state.
The first step towards the revival process would have to be taken by Rahul and he must step forward to take the blame for the Delhi debacle instead of other leaders being made scapegoats.
Political analysts maintain Rahul needs to emerge as a national leader and step up to the plate in leading the Congress out of the woods. They say the Amethi MP should get rid of the “band of MBA graduates” around him and become more visible, an elementary principle of politics.
“He should surround himself with real political animals…those who breathe, think and play politics,” said a political observer. “Politics is a cutthroat, competitive activity and he needs to be surrounded by those who fought elections and held important party posts.”