The assembly election results have dealt a body blow to the Congress and may impact its fragile coalition government at the Centre that is already hit by a perceived policy paralysis and corruption scandals.
The setbacks in UP and Punjab have made it even more difficult for the party to push its economic policy and reforms such as FDI in retail.
The Congress had pinned high hopes on the UP results to reduce its dependence on maverick ally Mamata Banerjee — seen as a stumbling block to reforms.
The Samajwadi Party’s (SP) phenomenal win in UP means Banerjee, who is game for mid-term elections, would continue to keep the Congress on the edge.
At the fourth position, the Congress remains a marginal player in UP. During the campaign, it made desperate attempts to woo the Muslims and backward castes.
Playing the Muslim reservation card, by union ministers Salman Khurshid — his wife Louise finished a poor fifth in Farrukhabad — and Beni Prasad Verma, only helped the SP. The Muslims clearly didn’t buy Congress UP in-charge Digvijaya Singh’s rant about the “fake” Batla House encounter.
What was shocking was the Congress’s poor showing in the Gandhi family pocket boroughs of Amethi, Rae Bareli and Sultanpur. Some in the party feel Robert Vadra’s political ambitions and his attempt to claim a place in the Gandhi family power structure didn’t go down well with the voters.
A weak organisational structure and internal strife added to the Congress’s woes.
At the national level, price rise and inept handling of the anti-corruption movement were the other factors.
The Punjab defeat too is baffling. In a first in the state’s history, an incumbent government (SAD-BJP) retained power. The Congress’s experiment of announcing Amarinder Singh as its chief ministerial candidate during the campaign failed. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not able to turn the tables on the Akali Dal.
With the BJP in the dock over allegations of corruption, the Congress had sniffed victory in Uttarakhand. But a divided state unit failed to capitalise on the advantage and is now left banking on independents to form the next government.
In Goa, corruption, illegal mining and family raj proved costly for the Digambar Kamat government, bringing the BJP back in power.