Congress Downslide

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Rahul should head AICC or make way for another leader

THE downward slide of the Congress party continues unabated. The grand old party fared badly in the Bihar Assembly elections as well as in the by-elections in several states. The party won just 19 of the 70 Assembly constituencies it contested in Bihar. It failed miserably in the by-elections in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and even in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh where it was in power after the last elections till the BJP toppled its government. Its dismal performance indicates that its leadership has failed to rebuild the organisation after its worst-ever performance in two successive parliamentary elections. The party was perhaps hoping to cash in on the sentiments of the people due to the failure of the Bihar government in dealing with the mass exodus of people during the lockdown and the consequences and also piggy riding the Rashtriya Janata Dal. But its assumptions came to naught as it failed to mobilise voters in its favour. Its leadership was found wanting when the party was contesting to salvage its pride.

There are voices rising from within the party about wrong selection of candidates and poor campaign. Rahul Gandhi, who gave a few public speeches in Bihar, could not arouse people to revive the party. Following a below-par performance it is natural for questions to be raised as the party was a part of an alliance that was fighting NDA that was facing anti-incumbency.  Despite knowing that much was at stake for the Congress and its alliance partners in the Bihar elections as well as in other states, Rahul Gandhi preferred to address only a few rallies. In contrast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even though busier than Rahul Gandhi, addressed more campaign meetings. The Congress also failed to draft Priyanka Gandhi into campaigning. It has emerged that most Congress leaders from Bihar were sidelined by team Rahul in selection of candidates as well as during electioneering, leading to the party being pushed to the fourth position. In the process the party yielded eight seats to its opponents it won during the last polls in Bihar.

It is pointless to attribute the poor performance of the party in Bihar to polarization of votes. It also does not hold when some party leaders argue that the Congress was given 13 seats it never contested and 26 seats which had never been won by any of the alliance partners for the last three decades. While this might hold true to some extent it is puzzling to note that the party could not retain the seats it won in the last elections. Making excuses will not help the party to revive.  Deep introspection and necessary changes in the organization to counter the might of the BJP and the charisma of Prime Minister Modi and the tactical expertise of Amit Shah may help the Congress better. The latest election results once again point to the urgency with which the party has to work out a strategy to take on the BJP.

The party has not learnt from its past mistakes. It has failed to build strong regional leadership, which can help it deliver results within the region and win elections at the regional as well as the national level. The grand old party has also lost most of its allies; most of them parted ways because of the leadership’s failure to treat them well and inspire them. The party has failed to attract allies in most parts of the country, including Goa where a call for united opposition by the Goa Forward Party to forge an alliance has been shot down. The party has been tardy on taking timely decisions on vital issues. One of the reasons for delay in decision making has been the absence of a full-time president of the party. It is for Rahul Gandhi to either take over the leadership or make way for someone else. With elections to several other state assemblies due in near future, the preparations should begin now for results to be positive when the votes are counted. Shying away from taking the right decisions at the right time will mean further diminishing of the party in the state assemblies.