From being the single dominant party in India to its pathetic performance in the recently-held Assembly elections in five states, the Congress Party has been on a steady downhill journey.
The 2014 General Election dealt the Congress an electoral punch that knocked the wind out of its sails. The election threw up a leader in Narendra Modi that was reminiscent of Indira Gandhi with a largerthan-life image and that resulted in a tectonic shift of political equilibrium in New Delhi.
The pivot changed from the middle of the centre ideological pinning of the Congress to the right wing brand of politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which rolled out a new political discourse promising to usher in a New India, free from the Congress.
Since then, the party’s down the hill roll continues and its performance in the latest state Assembly elections in five states indicates that the decline is terminal.
Few expected it to make waves. Even so, the 136-year-old party, also referred to as the Grand Old Party (GOP), managed to make the expected stunning. The party’s score at the end of the polls for five states stands 0-5.
Its vote share in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state accounting for 80 Lok Sabha seats, stood at 2.33 per cent. It won two seats and none in the so-called family boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli.
The Congress didn’t do much better in the four other states. In Punjab it was routed, with its sitting CM Charanjit Singh Channi losing both the seats he contested. In Uttarakhand, it tasted its third successive defeat. In Manipur, it helped the BJP get elected on its own and in Goa, its post-poll hopes on the sumof-pieces alliance was shattered to pieces. The Congress, it seems, is scripting a textbook on how not to fight elections by refusing to learn from its mistakes and undertake timely course-correction.
In 2021 in West Bengal, it aligned with the Left Front and scored a spectacular duck in the company of Communist cousins and its voteshare plummeted to 2.9 per cent. In Kerala, it fought against the very same front and enabled the reelection of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led CPI (M) government breaking the tradition of decades.
It signed up with rank opportunists and allowed the BJP to return to power in Assam. It lost Puducherry in a series of blunders to the breakaway NR Congress and hung on to the tail of DMK in Tamil Nadu. Defeats tend to form a pattern and set up decimation. The Congress party has been shut out of states for decades — Tamil Nadu for 55 years, West Bengal for 45 years, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar for over 30 years, Odisha and Gujarat for over 25 years and so on.
In the recent past, voters have ousted it as soon as they found a viable alternative front to represent their cause and address their linguistic and cultural grievances — in Telangana, in Andhra Pradesh, in Delhi and most recently in Punjab where the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party decimated it spectacularly.
There is no dearth of literature the party can consult from to understand what afflicts it. In 1936 at the party’s Lucknow session, Jawaharlal Nehru had warned about losing touch with the masses could “weaken our organisation”.
Almost 50 years later, in 1985 his grandson Rajiv Gandhi, speaking at the Centenary Session in Mumbai, had talked about the party being infected with “the brokers of power and influence, who dispense patronage to convert a mass movement into a feudal oligarchy.”
The words ring true in 2022. The Congress is still the principal Opposition in states accounting for over 180 Lok Sabha seats yet it is virtually invisible and surfaces, if at all, for air on Twitter.