Elections 2019: Should the Congress 'die'?

As the results of the exit polls were coming out on news channels on Sunday night, and it was becoming increasingly evident that the numbers were advantageous to the NDA, there was plenty of backlash on the Congress and the strategy it employed in the elections.

Even though these were just projections and not the official results, the Congress came in for plenty of harsh criticism for running a futile campaign. But even amidst the barrage of barbs against the Congress on social media platforms, one tweet stood out

Strong, even uncharitable, words. But they were not directed at the Congress by a nameless troll that social media platforms abounds with. They belonged to the quiet talking, genteel Yogendra Yadav, a member of AAP and an ex-pollster himself.

Indian politician and psephologist Yogendra Yadav attends a protest gathering near the Indian parliament calling for end to deaths of workers in sewer cleaning in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Sept.25, 2018. (AP Photo/R S Iyer)

Yogendra Yadav's tweet was the opinion he had aired in a TV debate that discussed the Congress' potential defeat, and in that telecast, he had preambled his comments saying that after a deep thought on the matter that he had come to the conclusion that the Congress no longer serves any purpose.

But should the Congress die?

"It is a typical over the top reaction that works on TV. Just because it might lose an election, you can't talk of exterminating a party," says Vidyalakshmi, a journalist in Chennai. "Winning and losing are part of electoral politics. The BJP, for instance, lost the 2004 and 2009 polls, after being seemingly in the favourite's saddle. Nobody called for dismantling the BJP then," she adds.

At any rate, these are only exit polls, why not wait till the verdict is out on May 23, she wonders.

Binoo Charles, an academic in Kerala, however, feels that the Congress has a lot to answer for if the predictions on opposition parties not doing well in the elections turn out to be true. "The Congress' strategy was wrong for itself, and in places like UP, Delhi it proved to be a stumbling block for opposition putting up a united fight against the BJP. Moving Rahul Gandhi to contest from Wayand made it difficult for Left to mend fences with the Congress. Seen from that angle, Yadav's point has some validity."

Concurs S P Verma, a digital media journalist in New Delhi. "The Cong must die in actual words may seem extreme. But in principle the sentiment behind the idea is that the Congress should rehaul itself thoroughly."

Verma points out that implicit in Yadav's opinion is the point that the Congress needs a leadership change. A name away from the Gandhis is the need of the hour. "The country actually needs the Congress now more than ever. The BJP cannot and should not be allowed to have a free run. But the thing is the Congress should die in its present form and emerge as a fresh, reinvigorated force to take on the might of the saffron party."

The general belief among the experts is that the Congress can no longer afford to tarry its feet over the leadership direction. Its reluctance over empowering State level leaders has also come for strong criticism. The case of Captain Amarinder Singh in Punjab is thrown up as an example. The Punjab Chief Minister has a mind of his own (away from the Central leadership's views), but rather than respect his position, the party is propping his opponents like Navjot Singh Sidhu and creating problems from within.

Binoo feels the Congress' problems stem from its inflexibility, an established unease towards changing the status quo in the party. Vidyalakshmi says "we should not get carried away by the emotions of the moment. 10 years is no big deal in politics. Congress just needs to see through this potential storm. It cannot be, and should not be, curtains for the Congress."