Upswing in Gujarat assembly elections energises Congress for uphill battle aheadUpdated: Dec 19, 2017 00:02 IST
The Congress’ electoral slide continues.
The grand old party has yet again failed to stop the BJP juggernaut though it described the Gujarat results as a “moral victory” for having restricted the saffron party below the 100 figure in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
The defeat in Himachal Pradesh was on the expected lines given the hills state continued its trend of changing incumbent governments every five years. The BJP is now in power on its own or in alliance in 19 states.
The decline in the Congress’ fortunes began in 2013 and reached an all-time low in 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which it barely managed to win 44 seats.
Since then, Punjab has been the only saving grace. The party could not form the governments even in Goa and Manipur despite emerging as the party with maximum seats in both the states.
The three northeastern states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura will go to polls in February next year. Meghalaya is one of the five states ruled by the Congress now. The other four are Karnataka, Punjab, Mizoram and Puducherry. The BJP has already set its eyes on the North East with the PM setting the tone with his visit to Meghalaya last week.
But the next big electoral battle between the two parties will be fought in Karnataka in March-April 2018. The Congress, led by chief minister Siddaramaiah, faces a daunting task of retaining power in the southern state. For his part, a confident Siddaramaiah vowed to give Karnataka as “first gift” to Congress’ new chief Rahul Gandhi. On the other hand, the BJP, riding on Modi’s popularity, will leave no stone unturned to oust the Congress.
Before the grand finale in May 2019, the BJP and the Congress will slug it out in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in November-December next year.
The main reasons identified for the successive debacles are Congress’ inability to connect with the masses and the failure to strengthen the party organisation at the grassroots level. The grand old party’s support base has eroded over the years and its policies have not been in tune with aspirations of the youth and the middle class.
The challenge for Gandhi will be to win back the party’s traditional vote-banks by trying different kinds of social engineering.
“Gujarat shows the way ahead for the Congress, which should now focus on states where it is pitted directly against the BJP… Also, the vote in rural Gujarat should be heartening for Congress though it needs to work really hard on the middle class,” said political analyst Professor Balveer Arora.
Rahul also has to empower regional leaders for the Congress’ resurgence at the national level largely depends on its revival in states. Building alliances is another key task for the new Congress chief. Political analysts too insist that the Congress needs to strengthen the state leaders. “The dearth of regional satraps is something that Rahul Gandhi has to address,” Arora said.