Congress decimated in ‘semi-finals’ ahead of 2019, will Rahul take responsibility?

Two years after its worst defeat in Lok Sabha elections so far, the Congress party disappointed once again, managing to just bag seven of 104 seats it contested in the 403-strong Uttar Pradesh assembly.
File pic of Congress VP Rahul Gandhi - India TV
Abhinav Ranjan New Delhi March 11, 2017 20:41 IST

Two years after its worst defeat in Lok Sabha elections so far, the Congress party disappointed once again, managing to just bag seven of 104 seats it contested in the 403-strong Uttar Pradesh assembly. 

The vote share also dropped by half to 6.2 per cent against 11.63 per cent it had secured in the last assembly elections. On the other hand, the BJP had got 42.6 per cent vote share in the 2014 polls in the state while the tally stood at just 15 per cent in the 2012 assembly elections. This time, the BJP’s vote share was around 40 per cent, signalling people trusted it. 

The Samajwadi Party’s vote share, however, has remained largely unchanged from 22.3 per cent in 2014, but has come down to 21.8 per cent from 29 per cent in 2012.

The result clearly shows that the Congress party failed to find committed supporters in a state which once gave the country four Prime Ministers -- Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi -- from the Congress as well as VP Singh of the Janata Party.

All efforts by vice president Rahul Gandhi to woo voters and establish a connect with ground workers have proven futile, demolishing any chances of its revival. Although several opinion and exit polls predicted more than 150 seats for the Congress-SP alliance, the results upset both the parties triggering a debate on whether this was ‘the beginning of the end of Congress party’.

The absolute disconnect between the top leadership and the workers was clearly visible. The scenario was quite similar to what Rahul’s month long ‘khaat sabha’ across the state had displayed. The response and chaos witnessed at his meetings showed he had not done homework properly. 

Congress leaders may say that Rahul ‘still’ has the vision to lead the party, but the absence of quality leadership remains a big concern for it. The Uttar Pradesh polls were considered as the semi-finals for the 2019 general elections. However, the verdict makes it clear that the 130-year-old party will have to take some tough decisions to make its presence felt two-and-a-half years later.

The Congress is now left with only three major states – Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab (where it will form a government after a gap of 10 years). The northeastern states of Meghalaya is also in its pocket. In Manipur, considered a stronghold for the party, voters have given a fractured mandate – though the party does have a possibility to form government here with the support of small players.

Meanwhile, as the Congress continues to shrink, and will its funds. For the Congress, it’s almost like a déjà vu of 2014. The party desperately needs to introspect thoroughly and do some concrete groundwork to boost the morale of workers who have been waited enough for a success. Many say that the party functions more like a corporation body whose chairman is Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul is a top-ranked executive and leaders including many seniors are bound to report to them and seek approval before taking any decision.

Perhaps the biggest issue that the Congress will face now is that of fixing accountability. After 2014 loss, the party tasted defeats in many states but the top leadership was never held responsible for the debacle. Be it in Maharashtra, Haryana, Assam or most recently in Uttar Pradesh, leaders have followed the trend to jump into the defence of Rahul. Contrary to this, the party has openly credited him for its good show in Punjab.

The Congress, since its debacle in 2014 polls, had not left any opportunity to earn the people’s support – be it in Bihar where it is a junior partner in the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or contesting polls in West Bengal with the Left. The party’s decision to join hands with the SP was another desperate attempt by it to revive its lost fortune, which actually failed.

The big question staring at the Congress is where the buck stops. If the party continues with its approach to blame the state leadership for poll debacles, one can be rest assured that the party has lost the plot and has no intentions of taking a turn for the better. If the Congress actually believes that Rahul has the calibre to lead the party and revive its fortunes, the leader must show the courage to take responsibility and act upon it.

Anything else will only be a whitewash. And nobody is buying it!

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