The Grand Old Party has had many landmark years. It was created in 1885, called for Purna Swaraj in 1930 and launched the Quit India Movement in 1942. And for many elections when a voter would vote, he or she would think of 1947.
After Independence negative landmarks started coming for the Congress.
When it lost power in multiple States for the first time and Tamil Nadu for good.1977:
When it first lost power at the Centre and lost West Bengal for good.1989:
When it lost a majority at the Centre for good and soon after lost permanently the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and subsequently Gujarat.
2014 is another such landmark year. Not only did they beat their all-time low in the Lok Sabha of 114 (1999, Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s first election after taking charge) by 70 seats, but they could not even officially get the Leader of the Opposition tag.
In State elections they lost Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Haryana.
Their most disappointing show was probably Maharashtra. They have ruled the State for 60/67 years after Independence and even called the shots during the first non-Congress government of 1977-80.
This is also the first time that any non-Congress party has got more than 100 seats in the State Assembly on its own. Maharashtra was the ultimate Congress bastion among all States and it has finally fallen.
The future looks bleak in Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir too. In fact in the 10 largest States by area, the BJP has 5 and the Congress 1. This has never ever happened before.
While many parties have been down in the dumps before, if the leadership is right, then any party can be revived. When the BJP lost in 2004, the party looked to Pramod Mahajan.
When they lost in 2009, a lot of people started talking about Narendra Modi.
By some aspects Modi was preparing to be PM right from his State election victory in 2007.
As far as the Congress is concerned, it has always had a galaxy of leaders apart from the Prime Minister be it Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira or Rajiv Gandhi. Even when Sonia took charge of the Congress they had two good potential Prime Ministers in the form of Madhavrao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot.
However this is the first time that the Congress cupboard has become so bare.
Sonia is a spent force. Rahul Gandhi has no potential. Manmohan Singh is retired. Pranab Mukherjee has been elevated to President of India. The shadow of too many cases hangs over P Chidambaram.
Other senior ministers like Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal couldn’t even save their deposit at the elections. Those who think that an inexperienced and talentless person like Priyanka Vadra can bail out the Congress are living in a fool’s paradise.
There is not one leader who can take the bull by the horns. If the leadership of the party should fall out of the hands of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, whoever will take charge will be pulled down by everyone much like that story of frogs in the well.
Finances are also drying up. Donations to the Congress, including those from corporates, are dwindling. Elections in India are expensive affairs. You can’t hope to win with very less funds.
More than anything, the Congress has run out of ideas. Till the 1960s it was always seen as the Independence party. That card is dead. After the 1980s, it tried to sell secularism and socialism. That is also dead.
The BJP played the Hindutva card in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Even that card expired in 2004. The development card was thrown down by Modi in 2014 and if played well, it can easily get 2-3 terms. Just ask the voters of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
No money. No leadership. No ideas. The Congress has never had it this bad.
Even in 1977, Indira had 153 seats (plus allies had another 36 seats).
In 1989, Rajiv had 197 seats and still held many cards.
In 2014 the Congress is running on empty and nothing shows that it can get out of this mess in the next 5-10 years.
2014 could well be the year remembered by history as the time the Congress simply died.More from the author:
Bad Taliban. Worse Taliban. Worst Taliban
Stop playing good terrorist bad terrorist!
2014: When they should’ve attacked Congress
Meet India's four great dictators
5 bad ideas for Indian elections...
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here