What is the future of the Congress Party and the Gandhis is being deliberated and discussed at almost all levels, from political analysts to the ‘politicians’ who opine while chewing paan at their favourite kiosks of paanwala. The Congress has lost two states of the four that went to polls a few days ago, bringing the total to six since 2014. Its rule covers just six per cent of the population.
If one travels from Maharashtra to Assam, one does not come to a Congress-ruled state. And if one travels from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, one comes across only Karnataka where Congress is still in control. In such a bleak scenario, Sonia Gandhi is using the same old dilatory tactic — we shall introspect – which her immediate bonded chamchas have applauded and accepted. But someone like Digvijay Singh and Shashi Tharoor has in an oblique manner objected to. They have already said that time for introspection is over. Surgery is needed. These are early signs of rebellion. Early next year the Congress has no hope of faring any better. If then the Gandhis don’t do surgery they might find themselves unceremoniously ousted.
The problem is that Sonia Gandhi refuses to accept responsibility for the losses nor does she want her son to be blamed. Her usual bunches of foot-soldiers have already formed a shield to protect them from any blame.
Worse, she has not come out with any solution or roadmap for recovery. This leads one to believe she and her son are the problem. Since Rahul came from his vacation at some undisclosed destination, he seemed tune to negative politicking. He just kept criticising and attacking Narendra Modi. So much so that he did not use the Swaach Bharat Yojana to have toilets provided and cleanliness drives undertaken in his Amethi constituency.
Rahul Gandhi’s negativity turned into disruptions in the Rajya Sabha where he would not let economically benefitting bills, and particularly GST passed. Now freshly victorious in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee has already declared that she will support the GST Bill. His disruptions have made him even more unpopular.
So what is the future of the Gandhis and the party they lord over? Like in the Lok Sabha they might be left with a rump in the Party.
The results of assembly election and one in Puducherry, have indeed saved the Congress Party from extinction at this stage, but it’s on the brink and is an extremely endangered party. It went down from the prime, national party to a state worse than regional parties like TMC or SP, when it was reduced to a rump after the parliamentary election in 2014.
Except the Gandhis everyone understands the ‘rats have been leaving the sinking ship.’ A number of senior leaders left Congress, to join the BJP and win election. All this has been happening while a few sycophants have assured the Gandhis that they are in no danger. The worse for the Congress is that Rahul Gandhi seems to have lost the plot. He has no fresh ideas to give his party a new look nor he has shown any ability to build state units and make them battle-fit. And according to Himanta Bishwa Sarma of Assam, he left Congress because of Rahul. He told him that his politics is limited to Blue Collar; nominations are made from members of families of the Party’s former office-bearers or members of some legislature. Secondly, he said, if Rahul did not want to respond to some question, he would start playing with his dog. Exasperated he told Rahul that he should start from the scratch.
Then he should take-over as party’s marketing manager. The BJP, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi completes two years in office, has made its presence strongly felt in the North-East, and registered its presence in West Bengal and Kerala. It would, therefore, be tempting to see the results as a referendum on Modi’s performance over the last two years. However, these elections are not about Modi. The Prime Minister’s performance or his politics seem much less of a factor than they were in the other assembly elections that have taken place since he came to power.
Even in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, all these states with the exception of Assam withstood the Modi wave. Tamil Nadu and West Bengal overwhelmingly voted in favour of AIADMK and TMC respectively, while in Kerala the rise of Modi ended helping the Congress-led UDF. The BJP, too, downplayed the Modi model in these four states, in what was major departure from other assembly elections such as Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar. Even in Assam, where the BJP has won a huge victory, it emphasised more on its state leaders like Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswa Sarma.
However, the results of these elections would have significant implications for Modi and the larger polity. Rahul as his main prime ministerial rival has written his withdrawal. Nitish is hopeful of leading a grand alliance and oust Modi to take over his gaddi. He does not seem to reckon Mulayam Singh and the two iron ladies Didi and Amma.
The Modi wave has been on the wane for some time now. Even in Haryana and Maharashtra, which went to the polls barely months after Modi came to power, the BJP’s vote share reduced considerably since the Lok Sabha elections. In Bihar and Delhi, the BJP was on the opposite side of a wave.
The victory in Assam would restore some of the faith in Brand Modi that had been eroded because of the debacles in Bihar and Delhi. The BJP has also got representation in West Bengal and Kerala. It opened its account for the first time in the latter state. This gives BJP a valid ground to claim to be a national party, in fact the only party with national presence. And as Arnab Goswami asked the other day who will challenge the national party in 2019?
Well, Modi will have a new set of enemies, AAP, Nitish, Yechury, and the successors of Gandhis’ Congress.
By Vijay dutt