Congress critical, needs change in political lifestyle to survive
The BJP’s victory in Maharashtra might be pyrrhic. But it’s no reason for the Congress to rejoice. The outcome of assembly polls in the state and Haryana is for the party a replication of the 2014 Lok Sabha results.
In neither province is the Congress even the second largest party - leave alone being anywhere close to getting recognised as the principal Opposition in Haryana. Trailing behind the INLD there and the Shiv Sena - that logged the second highest tally in Maharashtra -- its rump status is beyond doubt. So is its political isolation.
The NCP, which parted company with the Congress just before elections, made a paradigm shift soon after the poll picture became clear. It announced “unconditional” outside support for the BJP, stranded a step away from a simple majority in the 288-strong legislature. The move illustrated the adage that “self-interest” is the only constant in politics.
Regardless of the BJP’s response, the unilateral NCP overture is proof as much of its opportunism as of the Congress’s depleted political relevance. The nine states that it now governs have a bare 77 seats in Parliament.
Compare that with the BJP’s expanse. It rules on its own strength or shares power with regional allies in MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Haryana, Punjab, Andhra and Maharashtra.
The BJP-RSS are breathing down the Congress’s neck even in the three relatively bigger states where it has power: Karnataka, Kerala and Assam. The vulnerability of its political base there is too tangible to be missed.
The saffron parivar has strong ground-level presence in Karnataka that it once ruled, and is well on the way to building a formidable base in Assam. Kerala looks an exception to the rule. But there too, the BJP surprised itself by standing second in the 2014 Thiruvananthapuram parliamentary polls.
Of greater political significance are instances of CPM cadres shifting loyalty to the saffron camp in Kerala. Many observers consider that a fallout of the Marxists’ subtle application of religious glue to keep their backward Hindu base against the Congress’s Christian-Muslim-forward caste social amalgam.
If the Congress indeed is critically ill, these are signs of potential multiple organ failure. About time it stopped refusing treatment, entail as it may not just life-saving surgery but a radically changed political lifestyle.
The sooner it happens, the better. For around the corner are elections to assemblies in Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir. An unequal contest these might be -- the BJP high on steroids, the Congress needing the elixir of life.