By Prashant Sood
New Delhi [India], May 2 (ANI): Congress suffered defeats in Assam and Kerala on Friday and failed to win a single seat in West Bengal as the dismal show by the party continued in this round of assembly polls.
The party also fared poorly in Puducherry, which it ruled for nearly five years before V Naranasamy resigned as Chief Minister in February this year due to loss of majority. Only in Tamil Nadu, where Congress is a junior ally of DMK, did Congress perform credibly riding on the success of its alliance partner. Congress had fared poorly in Bihar elections in November last year.
The results in Kerala are a setback also for party leader Rahul Gandhi who is a MP from Wayanad in the state. The defeat in the state came almost two years after the party-led UDF's spectacular performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when it won 19 of 20 seats. Both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had campaigned in Kerala for assembly polls. The results are more surprising as the state has had a long tradition of LDF and UDF coming to power alternately. It is for the first time in nearly four decades that LDF has broken the trend.
Congress is poised to win 21 seats in the state, one less than its tally in 2016 polls. The party did not project a chief ministerial candidate to prevent division among its leaders but the move has apparently proved counter-productive as LDF had a popular face in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Weeks before the election, senior leader PC Chacko left the Congress blaming factionalism in the party's state unit. The party was also slow in finalising seat-sharing with its partners.
The results of assembly polls have only accentuated problems of the Congress which has not been able to find a regular president since Rahul Gandhi stepped down taking responsibility for the party's poor performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. A section of party wants Rahul Gandhi to again take the post while another section is more keen on party's interim chief Sonia Gandhi continuing at the helm to provide a "unifying leadership".
The Congress, which forged 'Mahajot' in Assam and allied with AIUDF, also did not project a chief ministerial candidate in the state. Some of its senior leaders like Gaurav Gogoi did not contest the assembly elections. The party had won 26 seats in 2016 elections and is slated to win 31 seats in this election. The party's ally AIUDF won 16 seats but the BJP used the alliance to target the party on the issue of "infiltration". The Congress failed to dislodge the BJP from its areas of dominance in the state.
In West Bengal, the Congress had won 44 seats in the 2016 assembly election in Bengal and was second after TMC. However, it drew a blank this time, perhaps the first time in its history. Talking less about the party's dismal performance in the state, Congress leaders appeared to draw more satisfaction from the defeat of BJP in the state.
"I'm happy to congratulate Mamataji and the people of West Bengal for soundly defeating the BJP," Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.
With the Left parties also drawing a blank in the state, the state's polity appears to have turned bipolar between the TMC and BJP and it does not augur well for the Congress.
In Puducherry, the Congress had won 15 seats in last elections but this time it won only two seats in this election.
The electoral defeats of Congress have also come in the way of the party emerging as a strong nucleus of anti-BJP coalition at the Centre. Mamata Banerjee is likely to be a key figure in such a grouping and she had written a letter to several opposition parties about "assaults" on democracy and constitutional federalism by the BJP-led government.
A group of 23 Congress leaders had written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi last year seeking sweeping changes, full time and effective leadership which is both "visible" and "active" in the field and elections to the Congress Working Committee.
Congress leader Ashwani Kumar expressed concern over the outcome of assembly polls and said the "chastening election results" are an SOS for the Congress ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and the need for demonstrable and purposive action to address the organisational and communication gaps was never more evident.
Kumar, a former union minister, said Congress must secure internal cohesiveness and establish an emotional connect with the people to retain its resilience and relevance in national politics.
"For Congress to retain its resilience and relevance in national politics it must secure internal cohesiveness and establish an emotional connect with the people. It needs to work on its messaging and accurately assess the barometer of popular sensitivities," he said.
Kumar said that at the present juncture and considering the political realities, Sonia Gandhi's "unifying leadership of the party is necessary".
"The foremost task is to keep the party together through an extensive reach-out problem and to enlarge the network of political alliances while involving all leaders in rejuvenating the party," he said. (ANI)