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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Disconnected campaign behind Congress defeat

A weak organisational structure, a lacklustre and disconnected campaign, and failure to communicate its poll promises are behind the poor show by the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, analysts said.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 24, 2019 09:29 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Rajasthan Congress office wore a deserted look as the Lok Sabha election results were announced on Thursday
The Rajasthan Congress office wore a deserted look as the Lok Sabha election results were announced on Thursday(ANI Photo)
         

A weak organisational structure, a lacklustre and disconnected campaign, and failure to communicate its poll promises are behind the poor show by the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, analysts said.

The successive drubbing in general elections has once again exposed the weaknesses of the party organisation, especially in Hindi-speaking states. The party won 44 seats in 2014 and 52 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The real cause of concern for the Congress is the reverses in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh where it defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the assembly elections just six months ago.

And in Karnataka, the BJP trounced the ruling alliance, a year after the JD(S) and the Congress came together to form the government. The party will now have to strive hard to save its governments in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka where a thin margin has kept the BJP away from power. The 133-yearold party failed to open its account in 13 states — Rajasthan, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Tripura, as well as Delhi.

Also read: Chowkidar to Rafale, Congress’s graft pitch failed

Also, nine of its former chief ministers – Sheila Dikshit (Delhi), Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Haryana), Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan (Maharashtra), Harish Rawat (Uttarakhand), M Veerappa Moily (Karnataka), Digvijaya Singh (MP), Mukul Sangma (Meghalaya) and Nabam Tuki (Arunachal PraTroubles desh) – tasted defeat.

“I accept the verdict of the people of India. Congratulations to the winners, Mr Modi & the NDA. Thank you to the people of Wayanad for electing me as your MP. Thank you also to the people of Amethi. Thank you Congress workers & leaders for your hard work in this campaign,” Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said.

Though Rahul Gandhi led the campaign in 2014 too, the polls were fought and lost under the presidency of his mother, Sonia Gandhi. This time, it was Rahul Gandhi’s show all the way.

One of the big takeaways is the failure of the Congress to communicate the contours of its Nyay (Nyuntam Aay Yojana), minimum income guarantee scheme, which promised Rs 72000 a year to the country’s poorest families.

Gandhi’s campaign themes – focusing on alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal, his “Chowkidar chor hai” slogan directed at PM Modi, and criticism of demonetisation and goods and services tax -- too failed to woo the voters. The inability of the Congress and other opposition parties to project a challenger to Modi also seems to have hurt the party.

Also read: What the next 5 years hold for key leaders

Delhi-based political analyst N Bhaskara Rao said the Congress ran a disconnected campaign. “Issues such as Rafale and GST raised by the Congress had no emotional connect with the voters. On the other hand, Modi ran an emotional campaign and that worked well” he said.

The other big worry for the Congress is the lack of regional leaders except in Punjab where chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh managed to salvage some pride for the party.

After the 2014 Lok Sabha poll debacle, the Congress promised to reinvent itself to arrest the electoral slide.

Rahul Gandhi did make some organisational changes after taking over as the Congress president in December 2017. But the experiment didn’t yield the desired results.

First Published: May 24, 2019 09:29 IST

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