Its defeat now is far more consequential than it was in 2014, and it does not have the luxury of time. Congress president Rahul Gandhi put up a spirited fight but it was not good enough to slow down the Modi juggernaut. The Congress campaign was well-crafted and well-supported by a progressive manifesto promising jobs and a minimum income, but it just didn’t appeal to voters. Many strategic and tactical reasons will be given for the Congress’s failure; yet, we must begin by noting that the odds were heavily stacked in the BJP’s favour. Even though there are seniors in the camp, no one is having the guts and gumption to call a spade a spade and instead they try to shield and protect Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi was the major topic and his cynosure to hit the right chords at the right time was appreciated by everyone. But during general election, Rahul Gandhi was given full charge of the party but he could not create any impact on the voters. Again, he lacked experience and the firepower to attract people with a dynamic approach. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress President fumbled all over and the results revealed his stature. However, Modi Magic really has an edge over Rahul. Using hard words and the Chowkidar chant all let the party down and now he is playing resignation drama and that gave a glimpse of his inexperience and chose those words at a wrong time when Prime Minister was at his eloquent best. Rahul should realise his role in the party and should be more aggressive and should not fall short of words.
After the Pulwama terrorist attack and India’s response with the Balakot air strikes, the BJP mixed national security with a muscular nationalism, which completely derailed the Opposition as Modi used this narrative to project himself as the strong leader of a ‘Mazboot Sarkar (solid government)’. Congress couldn’t counter this narrative. It tried to change the subject by returning the focus to people’s issues. The Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) income guarantee proposal was part of this attempt, but it came too late and the party didn’t carry it to the people.
Congress got entrapped into anti-Modi sledging, thereby jettisoning its time tested ideology inherited from the freedom movement. It suffers from a crisis of leadership, of ideology, of devoted grassroot-level organisers and workers, and a lack of self-confidence. It will have to work on all these fronts in the coming years, besides bolstering movements of the ignored or aggrieved sections and effectively and rationally raising voices for the common people. There is not even a single day that passes without a piece on criticising Modi. Why doesn’t Congress accept that collective wisdom of people is far more balanced and progressive than your narrow narrative that has only one thing in Centre – defeat Modi? People have acted decisively and have given a befitting reply to those who painted Modi as Divider in Chief.
Instead of concentrating on issues which worry the people, Congress party was counting chickens before they were actually hatched. Re-birth with real Constitutionalism to encash all patterns of identity politics; bring out real issues; encashing all illegitimate strategies of right-wing could give a spell to political opposition in the midst of pampering of political economy. Any government is just a democratically elected party, but, serving as the jackpot for MNC who had siphoned of NPA worth lakhs of crores of rupees; blending of identity politics in frontal mainstream media real issues are not discussed by all stakeholders, including voter himself. To counter all strategies of nationalism is a big challenge as the populism had penetrated in the minds.
The real problems with the Congress are: people have come to hate dynasty politics 2) Congress leaders lack credibility in people’s eyes 3) the massive corruption during the last time Congress was in power is still fresh in people’s mind 4) Recent state elections in Rajasthan, MP, and Chhattisgarh were won by a grossly mischievous promise of waiver for farm loans within three days of assuming office – a promise that was not fulfilled. It is hard to understand the Congress fixation for a Gandhi to lead the party. Why this can’t be opened up to a free election process like in most democracies? In today’s India, where 35 per cent are below 35 years, there is little attachment to a Gandhi name because of a) Rahul is not related to Mahatma Gandhi nor is India involved in a freedom struggle. Congress needs more than a makeover.
Congress, in fact, all non-BJP parties must realise one thing: Dump English word secularism and instead chant Sarva Dharm Samabhav, appeasing none and serving all. Thus, goodwill ultimately will prevail, as many nationalistic and jingoistic governments have shown by their limited appeal. Ultimately, people don’t care if you are living next to a Hindu, Christian or atheist for that matter, people care from their family, and giving them a good life and where Modi wins the vote for a strong India.
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