By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
The biggest loser in the 2021 assembly elections is Congress. It is true that Congress was not in power in any one of those states but it was the main challenger to the power at least in two states and it failed to get a favourable verdict in both the states. Congress failed to gain power in Kerala where the tradition of change in power between LDF and UDF every five years and such a record of four decades is broken by LDF and CPM leader and incumbent CM PinarayiVijayan handed over a humiliating defeat to the UDF. This defeat for Congress is more worrisome as the campaign of Congress was led by its prospective national presidential candidate Rahul Gandhi who is incidentally a MP from Kerala. Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to placate the Kerala voters by pitting them against the north Indians has failed. His statement that “Coming to Kerala is very refreshing as I found people are interested in issues and not just superficially but going into details, unlike the in the North India” has boomeranged on Congress as the Kerala voter’s rejection of Congress is now perceived as done after a long and deep thought of voters. Orelse there was no other reason for Kerala voters to go against Congress by the side of which they stood in 2019 LokSabha elections by giving 19 seats to UDF including the victory of Rahul Gandhi in Waynad . Within two years of the massive mandate came the eually massive rejection both in the local bodies and now in the assembly elections. What made the party to go to such a low is yet to be fathomed by the Congress party.
If it is a humiliation in Kerala where it fought against the Left the result in Bengal is a tragedy where it fought in alliance with Left. The Congress drew a blank in the Bengal assembly for the first time since 1952 elections and that too happened under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. In Assam the pre-election posture of “it is Congress this time as we have rectified the mistakes” couldn’t be achieved despite its alliance with the pro-Muslim party of AIDUF led by businessman Baduruddin. In Tamil Nadu the 18 seats it won is not on its own strength but as a gratis from DMK. The organizational weakness of Congress in Tamil Nadu is such that the party can’t win a single seat on its own. The neighbouring union territory of Pondicherry has suddenly turned anti-Congress because of manipulative politics of BJP coupled with the Congress leaders’ dejection with the high command preference to NarayanaSwamy as CM.
Despite its flop show in elections and ‘also ran’ image which it gained since 2019 elections the Congress leaders are not ready to accept its decline in the Indian polity. That the high command’s glee in the defeat of BJP in Bengal rather than attending to its own political wounds shows the negative attitude which crept into the mind of Congress. It is no more recognized by the regional and other parties as a principal party to take on BJP. Even in this monumental crisis time the leaders of Congress self-patting baffles the observers. The party leaders are not ready to concede the rise in the regional aspirations and entrenched regional parties lead by very strong and abled leaders. It is no secret that many of those leaders who are now established leaders of regional outfits are from Congress stock but left the party as they found it a suffocating atmosphere under the Sonia Gandhi family centric vision. SharadPawar (NCP), Mamata Banerjee (TMC) and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy (YSRCP) are some of the leaders who turned fiercely independent and established their now influence in the respective states and are also ruling the states. The letter‘C’ in all the three party denotes ‘Congress’. Despite the close proximity of ideology the Congress high command choose not to placate them back into its fold and the result was conceding political space to those strong leaders. Thus in Maharashtra, Congress is next to NCP in power sharing and in popularity and in Andhra Pradesh Congress was wiped out and now in Bengal the same story repeated.
Despite the loss of face the arrogant attitude of the leaders of Congress is not diminished. RandeepSurjewala still feels that “India can only be capably administered by a national party like Congress”. Their attitude of not accepting the supremacy of regional powers is evident form the statement that “our regional leaders are good but one-size fits all the plan doesn’t work in India and only Congress has the experience and national vision to unite the country” thus negating the ideology and aspirations of different regions of this vast country. On one hand it talks of honouring “Muslim aspirations” as it suits them to attack BJP and on the other hand Congress is not ready to accept the aspirations of regional leaders. Congress tall talk of ‘inclusive’ politics sound hallow as the party high command is not ready to take all those regional leaders on board. The regional parties, the Congress party feels, should be subservient to the Nehru families and that theme is not going to be accepted by the regional party leaders as their stars are in ascendency.
That the Congress party is not ready for introspection is evident from the statement of another leader GhulamNabi Azad. This dissenter from Jammu and Kashmir says that “for Congress the results are disappointing, especially Kerala where we missed our term on five decades”. But he is not ready to pin point the reasons for the defeat. Perhaps he may be trying to build bridges for the dissenting G23 group with the high command by saying “this is the not the time to find faults with anybody”.
All things connected with Congress lacks clarity. It couldn’t decide on the party chief. All things are moving on ad-hock basis. Still strong regional leaders are not preferred in the decision making. Leaders without mass base like P. Chidambaram are preferred basing on the loyalty to 10 Jan Padh. Rahul Gandhi who feels as the hereditary owner of the Congress party is taking the party down and down. Once it reaches deep down the gorge there is no way the party can be pulled up. Congress is the only party which has nationwide network but it is not ready to take up the responsibility of challenging BJP and that is the tragedy for the both the Congress party and Indian democracy.
(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com)