A shell-shocked Congress was left pondering its fatal flaws as the party’s five-year-old castle came down crashing in a massive saffron tsunami which swept through the deserts of Rajasthan on Sunday.
When early results poured in, it became clear as daylight that chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s dreams of a second term would be shattered by a resurgent BJP.
Bruised and battered beyond recognition, Congress leaders went into their shells, trying to figure out what went wrong despite the grand plans.
Was it the Narendra Modi factor or rejection of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi? Did the infighting, lobbying, faulty ticket distribution and rebel candidates harm the party in a big way? Did allegations of corruption and rising inflation turn voters to the BJP? Or was it a combination of all of these?
In a way, the election results are ‘routine’ for the bipolar state. Since 1998, no party has won a second successive term, with the Congress and BJP ruling alternatively.
But what was different this time was the magnitude of the BJP's victory.
Stunned Congress leaders had no answer to the people’s verdict.
“We never thought of such a result. The people will realise and repent,” said Dr Chandrabhan, state Congress president, who himself lost from Mandawa in Jhunjhunu by more than 10,000 votes.
Asked about the possible reasons for the debacle, he said, “Every issue has an impact, be it inflation or corruption."
Chandrabhan, however, refused to blame ticket distribution for the poor results, saying, “It cannot be, the poor show is not limited to a few seats but in a majority of them."
Terming his own candidature a “mistake”, Chandrabhan said he had “jumped into the fray without preparations”.
While Chandrabhan sent in his resignation as state in-charge to the party leadership, there were murmurs about the fate of Gehlot, who has never been without any position, either in the party or in government.
After losing in 2003, he was appointed as Congress general secretary in-charge of two states – Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
Many in the party see the Congress rout as the end of the road for the 62-year-old veteran, but his supporters are confident he will be rehabilitated in Delhi.
Though most of the leaders were too shocked to talk about the results, a senior leader admitted, “We were not able to get our house in order and should have taken a long, hard look at the anti-party wave across the country. Our leaders forgot that politics on the ground is different from discussions in air-conditioned rooms.”
Another Congress leader who was denied ticket too had the same view. “There cannot be a set formula in politics and ground realities cannot be studied through presentations or graphs sitting in Delhi.”
Many a party worker would find a ring of truth in this analysis as there were allegations that the leadership ignored workers’ views on candidate selection.
Senior Congress leader CP Joshi, often accused of working at cross-purposes with Gehlot, tried to be sporting in defeat. “We respect the verdict in Rajasthan. Every election gives an opportunity of introspection to prepare for future electoral battle,” he tweeted.
Pros and Con(g)
• Congress’ worst show ever, lower than the 41 seats it had won in 1977
• Losing candidates include Congress state in-charge Dr Chandrabhan
• Rajasthan stays true to its tradition of voting out party in power
• NPP leader Kirori Lal Meena’s dream of playing kingmaker remains a dream
• Vasundhara Raje credits “big factor” Modi for landslide BJP victory