The Congress has lost many times in the past in Indian general elections. But this is the first time when it stands at one-sixth of the main party in terms of Lok Sabha seats and doesn’t even have the numbers to make an official Leader of the Opposition.
A look at why the days of the Grand Old Party of India could well over at the national level…
1. The dynasty is finished: The last time when a dynasty member campaigned and won a general election on his or her own merit was Indira Gandhi in 1980. The 1984 and 1991 mandates were a result of tragic assassination sympathy waves.
In 2004 the Congress came to power by chance. In 2009 Manmohan Singh had greater credit. The dynasty was running on luck and emptiness for the last 30 years but that luck has finally run out and that’s why the Congress has come down crashing to earth.
Sonia Gandhi is past her prime and one can see that both Rahul and Priyanka don’t have it in them to build a new party from scratch.
2. Refusing to look beyond the dynasty: Every party can recover from a debacle. The Congress was finished in 2003 and the BJP was finished in 2009. And yet both made comebacks. But in this case the party is just refusing to look beyond the dynasty that failed them.
Leaders are not even pointing fingers at the dynasty in public and workers clamouring for Priyanka (a woman with zero experience) borders on the ridiculous.
3. No longer the freedom party: From the 1951-52 elections, crores of Indians voted for the Congress simply because they won us Independence. That number steadily declined with each passing decade, but it was still there.
That way the Congress was still more popular than the BJP in the very old category. But by 2019 hardly any voter will be left who will vote for Congress just because they won us Independence. The party desperately needs a new USP and they are not even trying.
4. Failing to capture the youth: The youth played a decisive role in this election and will continue to do so in politics thanks to movements like August Kranti and phenomena like social media.
The BJP has been extremely successful in capturing the imagination of the youth. Till 2009 the BJP was sold as the communal party and the Congress as the secular and inclusive party. Today the BJP is seen as the development party and the Congress one bereft of ideas.
5. Losing states one by one: In terms of State governments, in 1967, the Congress lost Tamil Nadu for good. In 1977 it lost West Bengal for good. In 1989 it lost Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat for good.
But still it managed to emerge as a coalition giant because it had some bastions that delivered it a good chunk of Lok Sabha seats. But the biggest bastion of them all is Maharashtra and that has crumbled in 2014.
The other is Andhra Pradesh where the TDP, TRS, YSR Congress and BJP all seem to have a better future than the Congress.
From now on the Congress will struggle to get LS seats.
6. Leadership wiped out: Finally it’s a question of leadership. Sardar Vallabhai Patel unified India. Lal Bahadur Shastri laid the foundations of the Green Revolution and strong defence forces. PV Narasimha Rao liberalized India.
The Congress always had strong leadership which either outshone the dynasty or propped it up. Now the Congress cupboard looks totally bare. Madhavrao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot were tragic losses.
Manmohan Singh has retired. P Chidambaram didn’t even fight the elections. AK Antony is disgraced as a Defence Minister. Pranab Mukherjee has occupied Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The next round of leadership that includes the likes of Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal have been humiliated at the hustings.
You cannot rebuild a party if you have no credible leadership.
In fact it would be a good idea to make some young leaders in charge and begin from scratch for 2019. By then the BJP could be overconfident and the Congress could make a comeback.
However the Sonia Raj may continue. Or maybe Rahul the failure will be given the full charge. Or maybe someone with zero experience like Priyanka will be sought.
Old beaten solutions for a new India may not work for the Congress anymore.
More from the author:
Seven positives of general elections 2014
Killing them softly with Twitter names
Eight times when media was petrified of Sonia...
Seven reasons why Nehru was a bad first PM
Beware! The Fascist dictator riseth!
Five reasons why Pappu will be a disastrous PM
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.