The debacle of Congress in 2019 Lok Sabha elections in India was not a surprise for the voters of the largest democracy in the world. While the international media tried to put a western stereotypical template to understand the politics of India, the Indian media, specifically Lutyen’s media or what the Prime Minister calls “Khan Market Gang” tried to peddle a narrative that Congress was emerging as a strong contender. And came the D-Day and the entire media went ballistic on the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, whom they had portrayed to be the next big thing. While the popular opinion is that Rahul should resign and pave way for inner party democracy, the party is not ready for it.
One of the biggest problems with Congress is the absence of a cadre. So many dynasts under one roof with every dynast having a sense of entitlement. Now one can argue that regional parties also have dynasts, but they are one dynasty/family parties. These individual dynasties own these regional parties. Congress on the other hand is a complex mixture of dynasts and a bigger dynast is need to rein in the rest. So, without a Gandhi, Congress falls apart. That is where the absence of cadre haunts Congress. In such a scenario, state leadership gets overlooked, which harms the party in more than one way or the other.
Secondly, Congress is a confused party. In one of the rarest cases, the political party has very less ground connect. The 5 years of Modi government was a transitional era for India where digital connectivity and welfare was given a push. The Congress was sleeping over this development. You cannot win an election in 2 months. It requires continuous vigilance. Getting up one day and announcing NYAY despite your inability to provide a promised loan waiver in the recently won states was not going to ring a bell with a household which got toilets, gas connection, houses, direct income transfer and reservation.
Thirdly, Congress’ idea of secularism now borders on appeasement. The biggest blunder of Congress was to oppose the Triple Talaq bill. It appalled the women voters across religions and caste. In its pursuit to preserve its one segment of vote bank, Congress destroyed a much more big vote bank and that is WOMEN.
The fourth biggest failure of Congress was to downplay National security as an election issue. A country with such a huge nationalistic fervour, a country which was just stuck by the horrific Pulwama attacks, cannot be expected to be mute on this issue. To add to its trouble, their ghosts of the past came to haunt them. Their defence of inaction on 26/11 attacks was the stupidest thing one could imagine.
In a country with the majority population being Hindu, you can’t expect to win elections by alienating them. Hindu consolidation over caste equations stumped Congress. This is something that the Congress borrowed from Communists and it brought about the avalanche under which every big leader got subdued. An average Hindu today isn’t ashamed of his culture and traditions and Congress was not able to tap on this sentiment.
The fifth failure of the Congress was to attack the incorruptible image of Modi. The fiercest of critics of Modi, can’t make a charge of corruption on the man because he has always been Mr. Clean. Whosoever advised Rahul to dismantle the image of Modi should be shown the door first. You can’t attack the somebody on his strongest point.
The sixth and the biggest failure of Congress is that it never became a positive alternative for the voters. Their inability to accommodate allies, inability to give a vision to voters, negative campaign, shoddy language, a disastrous manifesto, internal bickering and resting the entire responsibility on weak shoulders of Gandhi siblings to replicate the Modi-Shah model of campaigning was the greatest blunder.
Now, with all done and dusted, the Congress still seems clueless as to how to start again. With the time running by, 5 years will not be enough for Congress to stand up on its feet but it has to start today.