Did BJP defeat or Congress lost?

By Renuka Kalpana

As the din and dust of the Assembly elections settle, Indian National Congress has emerged as the biggest loser in the five states that went to polls in February-March.

Not only did the congress fail to win in any of the five states, but it also posted some of its worst electoral performances.

 Accepting the defeat, senior leader Rahul Gandhi said the party will learn from these election results, the same sentence that he has been repeating since 2014.

In the exit polls Uttar Pradesh was surprisingly inclined towards the Bharatiya Janata Party. The polls had already predicted congress with lesser seats. 

Unlike Uttar Pradesh, even though Punjab was inclined towards the Aam Aadmi party, congress was not expecting such a low number of seats. Exit polls of Manipur shared the same pattern leaning towards BJP and giving hopes to the INC at the same time.

However, when the results came BJP stamped its victory over four out of five states and the remaining one, Punjab was conquered by AAP. 

Congress was just able to secure a position of main opposition in Goa and Uttarakhand winning 11 and 19 seats respectively. The party leaders showed satisfaction with 2 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 18 in Punjab and 5 in Manipur. It will not be a tall claim to say that congress made it easy for all the parties in five states to win and take over the power.

Congress da bhala?

The decline of congress in Punjab started when Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned as Punjab congress chief. The plan to make Charanjit Singh Channi a Chief minister neither made party leaders like Sidhu happy nor made Dalits, who contribute more than 35% of total votes, to stick to them. This internal conflict between the party benefitted AAP when it had no hopes of winning.

Aravind Kejariwal’s campaigning was more focused on the daily problems that people face. He raised a voice on the issues of electricity, education, sand, health care and most importantly against drug consumption. Trapped in the AAP’s strategy, Channi declared a new announcement each day. The concept of ‘Sarabat da Bhala,’ Congresses prime motto was really impressive, but it failed due to the unstable implementation.

Actually congress should have changed its strategy right after the results of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation election in December 2021. Instead, they focused on dirty politics of alleging Arvind Kejariwal as a supporter of terrorism. Congress was aware that such allegations do not make any difference during the elections. Still, they used this strategy and made fun of themselves.

Chaos of regional parties

Regional parties are as responsible as BJP is for the failure of congress in Manipur. INC, the party which got maximum number of votes and first position during the state assembly elections of 2017 has been relegated to the fifth position this time. INC won just 5 seats this time, whereas BJP, contesting solo, crossed the magic number of 31 required to form government. 

Even after the Modi wave of 2014, people of Manipur decided to elect congress in 2017. It won 28 seats. However, forming a post poll  alliance with the two regional parties, Naga people front and National People party, BJP established a government. Both of these parties had won four seats each.

Distressed by BJP for not fulfilling the expectations both the parties decided  break away from the alliance and contested  independently this time. INC had a good opportunity of forming an alliance with these parties, but had hardly taken any   efforts in the last five years either to make the party strong and noticeable or to form any alliance with the regional parties.  

Even in Uttar Pradesh, the INC had many things to campaign for. They had many cards like the floating bodies in the river, lack of management during Covid-19, Lakhimpur Kheri and Hathras incidents, which had power to turn the election results upside down. BJP’s strategy game captured the women voters. Even Priyanka Gandhi’s Ladki hu, lad sakti hu (I am a woman, I can fight) campaigning also failed in front of that.

Trapped in myths and dreams

In Uttarakhand, the party had everything going for it. There was anti-incumbency against the BJP government which had seen four chief ministers in five years, and a general drift in governance. This was compounded by the internal conflict that the BJP was facing.

 In fact, exit polls had predicted a neck and neck race in the state with a slight advantage for the Congress. But the party seems to have shot itself in the foot.

BJP and Congress had  being elected alternatively in the state, which was formed in 2000 after bifurcation of UP. Believing that this trend of people not voting a ruling party back to power will continue, Congress didn’t take any efforts of campaigning.

In Goa as well, congress started dreaming about the government right after the exit polls. The mismanagement of Covid-19 pandemic, deaths related to oxygen shortage and the agitations against the government to save the environment and diversity of Goans could have been the important points to highlight. Congress failed to realize it. 

A feudal sleep

The BJP had a star list of campaigners. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Uttarakhand for three days.  Even if Uttar Pradesh was the main target of the party the campaigners  never showed disinterest in any of the state’s elections. The rallies of Home Minister Amit Shah, Pat president JP Nadda, Rajnath Singh were never ending. Whereas, the sight of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi was rare in comparison.

When congress was in power, the minister of women and child development Smriti Irani had come on roads to protest against the hike in household LPG cylinders. Rahul Gandhi aptly circulated the same picture when the BJP government raised LPG prices in 2020. It is a high time that congress should realize that they have to come on roads to win the elections. If they do not really learn from their mistakes there will be no party left other than BJP in upcoming elections.

In one of his Facebook posts, senior journalist Ashif  Kurane has rightly said that most of the congress leaders behave in a feudalistic manner. They consider advice from the amateur members of the party as an insult. Their perspective is that the person in the leadership position is omnipotent and knows everything is making them watch such earth-shaking results again and again. First they have to come out of their feudal sleep to contemplate on their mistakes.