The strike rate of Rahul Gandhi (victories gained in constituencies where he addressed public rallies) is poor; compared to that of Narendra Modi, it is pitiable.
One had thought the Congress would learn lessons from its 2019 debacle. It did not in 2014 and does not appear to now. At the parliamentary party meeting held recently, which once again unanimously elected Sonia Gandhi as its chairperson, the Congress hung on to the old and failed slogans as its future roadmap to take on the Bhartiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre. It glossed over the defeat and even pretended to have done pretty well in the circumstances.
The Congress claimed its fight was to protect the Constitution of India. The Constitution is not under threat, and the only time it was bludgeoned was during the Emergency which Indira Gandhi had imposed in 1975. Instead of directing its energy at imaginary dangers, the party should focus on what actually is threatened: Its own sustainability as a credible pan-India party. This threat comes not from its opponents but as a consequence of leadership failure from top down, and the inability to construct a believable narrative against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Senior Congress leaders claim that government institutions were being used by the BJP-led regime against their party, much like the British had done against Indians when they ruled India
The Congress also said that the autonomy of various constitutional institutions was in danger and that the party would fight tooth and nail to prevent such deterioration. But it was during its regime that the Supreme Court had called one such institution, the Central Bureau of Investigation, a “caged parrot”. In Emergency days, the Indira Gandhi government had brazenly interfered in the autonomy of the country’s highest judiciary, the Supreme Court. Pliant Justices were rewarded and the inflexible ones punished. A few upright judges preferred to quit in protest, with their heads held high.
The Election Commission of India had, during a large part of the Congress rule, been turned into a paper tiger. It was only after TN Seshan took charge as Chief Election Commissioner that the poll panel began to crack the whip and assert its authority — even if that was limited by law. Over the decades post-Seshan, the Election Commission of India has crafted for itself an internationally accepted image of a fair and effective conductor of elections in what is the world’s largest democracy. More recently, the Congress has questioned the credibility of a slew of autonomous bodies such as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the poll panel itself and accused it of bias in favour of the ruling BJP.
Senior Congress leaders claim that government institutions were being used by the BJP-led regime against their party, much like the British had done against Indians when they ruled India. They are obviously, particularly referring to the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department because these agencies are in the thick of probing cases of wrongdoing against certain opposition leaders and their supporters. But the genesis of nearly all these cases was during the Congress-led UPA government, whether it be the Robert Vadra land purchases, the Agusta Westland deal, the civil aviation scam in which former Union Minister in the UPA time, Praful Patel, has been summoned, or the various others.
It has been wiped out in more than a dozen States, including Delhi. None of its traditional vote-banks has remained with it, anywhere.
Nearly all of these wild allegations had been part of the Congress’s election campaign, but the electorate refused to buy them. The party should have got the message and shifted to other, more pertinent matters — there are many, in fact. But the Congress simply refused to see the writing on the wall. This failure is not just limited to picking and then clinging on to the wrong issues but extends to leadership issues as well. At the Congress parliamentary party meet, Sonia Gandhi praised Rahul Gandhi’s leadership and said he had led the party “fearlessly”. There was nothing to fear in the first place; elections were held in a fair and democratic manner and the winner was decided by public mandate in a transparent manner. Perhaps her definition of ‘fearlessness’ is for the party chief to call the Prime Minister a “thief” without basis, and for senior Congress leaders to abuse him with various other names.
Rahul Gandhi — nobody still knows whether his decision to quit as party president is final or not — too indulged in false bravado. Rejected by the people twice in succession as a prime ministerial choice, he said his 52 MPs were sufficient to take on the BJP’s might in the House and outside, and that the ruling combine would not have a walkover. So, how does he propose to go about the task? Not through the articulation of public grievances and aspirations, but by creating ruckus in Parliament to demonstrate his party’s resolve. There wasn’t a word from either him or Sonia Gandhi about offering constructive opposition or backing the government in matters of national interest.
In five years, the Congress could add just eight seats to its 2014 Lok Sabha tally. It lost every Assembly election, barring the last three towards the end of 2018 when it displaced the BJP. Its vote-share is nothing to talk about. It has been wiped out in more than a dozen States, including Delhi. None of its traditional vote-banks has remained with it, anywhere. Even in the three States which it had won a few months ago, the BJP swept this election; in one of them, Rajasthan, the BJP won all the Lok Sabha seats on offer. The strike rate of Rahul Gandhi (victories gained in constituencies where he addressed public rallies) is poor; compared to that of Narendra Modi, it is pitiable. He lost in the family bastion of Amethi by a sizeable margin. He could not even fetch for his party the minimum number of seats for its leader to be officially recognised as Leader of Opposition. And yet, the Congress insists that he has been a fearless and successful leader, and is preparing to reward him as chief of the party in the Lok Sabha.
Strange, therefore, are the ways of the Congress.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.