Political parties may say, there will be Congress-free India, but it’s my prediction that Indian voters have great grounds for Congress to exist for ever. Four years of BJP rule was not that promising and memorable. People got fed-up and are seen shifting their loyalties towards grand old party Congress. In a thumping victory, the Congress grabbed three Assembly seats in Rajasthan from the BJP. Even in West Bengal, where BJP was hoping to upset the applecart of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the by-election to the Uluberia Lok Sabha constituency and Noapara assembly constituency, the saffron party only managed to finish second to TMC, whose candidates won with comfortable margins. The loss in the two Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan is a big setback to the BJP considering these were won with significant margins by the party in 2014, when Narendra Modi had led the party to power at the centre. In Rajasthan, the elections were fought in the background of the Padmavaat controversy which had enraged the Rajput community, which had accused the BJP of not doing enough to stall the release of the movie. In fact, in all the constituencies, Congress candidates had established strong leads right from the initial rounds of the counting, triggering celebration in state party offices.
Congress has swept the by-polls in Rajasthan by winning the parliamentary seats of Ajmer and Alwar and the Assembly seat of Mandalgarh. In winning the three seats, the Congress candidates Raghu Sharma, Karan Singh Yadav and Vivek Dhakhar lured away more than seven lakh votes as compared to the previous polls when the BJP won all three seats. The results cement Sachin Pilot as Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president and he will lead the party through the next Assembly polls. Over the past four years Pilot had taken small steps to rebuild the party over four years. Rarely has any Congress leader worked so hard and so consistently to build himself across the state given Pilot was mostly confined to Dausa and Ajmer, both his own constituencies in the past. The victory boosts the confidence of his party workers which had dipped after it lost in Dholpur and caste factors also worked for Congress.
Former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will carry on in an advisory role as the party will continue to rely on his experience. The deserving new faces got role to play in party, and slowly it’s becoming youth power. No wonder if they manage to grab good seats in 2019. At least, they will make things difficult for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as they made it in Gujarat. Pilot’s decision in putting faith on Karan Singh Yadav paid off in a Yadav-dominated area. Besides, Congress got overwhelming support of Meo Muslims who have been targeted by cow brigade of the BJP in this belt. In Ajmer, again Pilot’s decision to field Raghu Sharma to cut into BJP’s Brahmin votes paid off. Besides, Gehlot too worked hard for his aide Sharma. The biggest surprise for Congress itself has been Mandalgarh, which despite being a traditional Congress stronghold, was considered lost because of entry of its rebel leader in the fray. Pilot successfully highlighted flaws of government focusing on farmer’s suicides, poor civic amenities and religious intolerance. Gehlot reminded party workers that if it can do so well in Gujarat, it can do it in Rajasthan. Nothing worked for BJP this time.
Vasundhara Raje will continue to lead the party but her government needs face lift. She is a great disappointment for BJP in Rajasthan. She will have to make drastic changes in her style of functioning besides carrying out massive reshuffle in cabinet. Although the state BJP is trying to blame demonetisation, GST and lack of cooperation by the RSS, such excuses will not help party improve its chances in the upcoming Assembly polls. The recent by-polls were important as they were seen as a political weather vane by observers. With Rajasthan heading to Assembly elections in a few months, this spectacular showing is being touted no less than a precursor to the polls’ verdict. On the other hand, the (now infamous) Karni Sena has joined the celebrations and is hailing the Congress’ victory as a stamp of rejection to Raje’s governance. The Shri Rajput Karni Sena has been at loggerheads with the incumbent BJP-led Rajasthan government over several issues, including gangster Anandpal Singh encounter and the raging Padmaavat controversy.
Meanwhile, people have started realising that the financial policies of UPA were far better than BJP. It was middle class and poor man-friendly. Moreover, BJP must remove present CM who is solely responsible for humiliating defeat in two Lok Sabha and one Vidhan Sabha seat. The corrupt and worst governance is the main reason for such shameful defeat. If BJP leadership has no guts to remove present CM, the party should be ready to lose Rajasthan in Assembly Election due in 2018. The BJP government in Rajasthan is exactly like the Congress culture that Modi wants to end in India. Wish there was a third party. Vasundhara was responsible for breaking lots of temples in Jaipur to make the Metro. But she was unable to remove even a single mosque which hindered development. The agents (political dalaals) who used to get things done in Gehlot government are the same in Vasundhara government. The statement of AAP that both Congress and BJP are same party is actually true in Rajasthan. That’s why traditionally the government changes every five years. Moreover, Vasundhara’s arrogance and (mis)rule may have played a part no doubt.
If we look at West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress once again upset the BJP calculations and romped home easily in both the by-polls. The election results of West Bengal assume significance since they show BJP to be gradually moving ahead but repeatedly falling well short of TMC’s numbers. This could have a major bearing on BJP national president Amit Shah’s dream of bagging at least half the seats in the state in the next Lok Sabha polls.
In 2019, if Congress restructures their whole party and brings young faces who can connect with masses then they should give more responsibility to mass appealing leaders like Sachin Pilot, Shashi Tharoor etc. Currently there are very few faces in the party at national level that came from lower levels. They should emphasise on improving transparency in their party and need to motivate local party workers. They have strong chances of regaining power.
Congress’ decline isn’t new; it has been consistently losing vote share and seats since Rajiv Gandhi’s reign. The reason why it stayed in power was its ability to attract and retain allies. This was where BJP lacked substantially. Since the kick in West Bengal, tie-up with DMK and most stunningly BJP’s alliance building in Manipur and Goa, it is evident that Congress can’t do it anymore. Bihar seems like an outlier here. For it to succeed, it needs to reinstall confidence in potential allies. Booth Management is overlooked so often, but without it you are only on the ballot paper, not in the government. Congress needs to attract volunteers and party workers for booth management and ground connect, which they are doing. BJP needs to come out of their royal grope and fanatic mindset. They need to be more people-friendly, if both BJP and Congress fail to address their failures, voters will give them tough time.
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