Results of assembly elections in the three states where the Congress is set to get another shot has added more force to the theory that the 124-year-old party is on a comeback trail.
After peaking in 1984 the party went on a decline starting 1989, bottoming out in 1998 with a mere 25.02 per cent vote. It was out of power at the Centre between 1996 and 2004.
The party’s return to power in 2004 was interpreted as a vote against the outgoing BJP-led NDA government but the second term it won in May 2009 was formidable.
The party’s performance in Uttar Pradesh, winning 21 of 80 Lok Sabha seats, indeed was encouraging. Congress had been reduced to insignificance in UP with only nine Lok Sabha seats in 2004.
Does it all add up to a resurgence of the party that had support among all social groups across all regions until 1984?
Party leaders are upbeat, but political analysts feel the theory of party’s “revival” needs to be tempered with some reality checks. For instance the same UP where the party was showing signs of revival did not elect a single Congressman in four assembly by-polls in August. It could win only four of the 17 bypolls held in five states.
According to political scientist Manoranjan Mohanty, to ensure its resurgence, the party will need to orient its new-found
strength to “democratically tackle’’ problems like regaining the confidence of minorities, coping with the growth of violence or sustaining the economy, particularly in rural areas.
He attributed the Congress’s revival to the BJP’s decline, the opposition’s fragmentation and Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to usher a “new mobilisation".
But he denied that the Congress’s revival meant the decimation of regional forces.
“The regional parties are there. This is evident in Haryana where Om Prakash Chautala’s INLD has made gains and in Maharashtra where the MNS and the Shiv Sena are competing with each other. The overall trend in politics is for a multiparty system and within that the Congress is reviving," he said.
Party leaders dreaming of dominating political landscape again, remain unfazed, noting that the party won the Lok Sabha polls in key states. They believe the leadership’s maturity has put the Congress on the growth track.
Said party general secretary B.K. Hari Prasad: "Manmohan Singh’s governance, Sonia Gandhi’s selfless leadership and Rahul Gandhi’s image as a youth icon has instilled confidence in people. People believe that only the Congress can provide governance on the basis of its experience, expertise and ability to take all sections along with it. Maharashtra, which is mini-India, is a clear signal of this sentiment," he claimed.