The Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, has received the drubbing of its life in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The country’s oldest party managed to win only 52 seats, while regional parties like TMC, YSRCP and DMK have won 20+ seats each.
The first Lok Sabha elections of Rahul Gandhi as president of the Congress party have not gone well for him. He emerged as the biggest loser in these elections.
1. He lost even his family stronghold seat of Amethi
Amethi has been a traditional seat of Nehru-Gandhi family for the past four decades. Smriti Irani, an outsider, defeated Rahul, the wannabe prime minister, in Amethi by over 55,000 votes. This after the SP and the BSP-led ‘Mahagathbandhan’ did not field a candidate against him. Otherwise the margin of defeat would have been much higher. In 2014, Rahul had received a scare. In 2014, Rahul Gandhi’s margin of victory reduced from 370,000 to 107,000 votes.
Smriti Irani has caused the biggest upset and accused Rahul of not spending enough time in Amethi. Perhaps Rahul, and the Congress, could read the writing on the wall which is why he chose to contest from Waynad in Kerala, too. The Congress party has lost this seat only twice in 15 elections: once in 1977 during the post-Emergency Janata Party wave and the second time in 1998 when loyalist Captain Satish Sharma lost.
2. Wherever he campaigned, UPA candidates lost
Rahul was the principal challenger to Modi and the BJP. However, the number of rallies of the challenger were lower than the incumbent. Modi held 140 rallies, while Rahul had 105. His strike rate (seats which UPA won divided by number of rallies conducted) is an abysmal 14%. Modi’s strike rate is almost six time better at 80%.
Modi vs Rahul Rallies and Seats Won 2019 – Source: Times of India Data Hub
In fact, compared to 2014, his strike rate has declined from 19% to 14% for these seats. Meaning some candidates who had actually won in 2014 or some of these seats from where Congress party had won in 2014, were lost after Rahul’s rallies in 2019.
On the other hand, Modi’s strike rate has improved from 66% to 80% for these seats. Modi’s rallies turned positively the fortunes of BJP/NDA candidates.
3. Congress has drawn a blank in 13 states
The Grand Old Party has failed to win a single seat in 13 states -- namely, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Arunachal, Andhra, J&K, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. In 7 big states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand, the party has won just one seat.
4. Congress has miniscule presence in 3/4th of the country
Including the 20 states where party performed poorly, Congress has nil or marginal presence in states/UTs covering 75% of India’s population and area.
Almost 40% of its tally has come from three states of Punjab, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. In Punjab, where Congress won 8 seats, Capt Amarinder Singh, and not Rahul, is credited for the victory. In Tamil Nadu, the 8 seats party won is entirely due to DMK boss MK Stalin.
5. Congress will again be denied LoP status
The massive victory of the BJP and rather poor performance of the Congress means the party has fallen short of the magical mark of 54 required to get the post of Leader of Opposition (LoP) again in 2019.
It cannot be designated as the official Opposition again in the Lok Sabha after similar situation in 2014. As per rules, a political party needs to win at least 10 per cent of the total seats in Lok Sabha to get the Leader of Opposition position.
Even under the leadership of Sitaram Kesri, who is considered one of the weakest presidents in the history of the Congress, it did manage to get the LoP status.
There are bigger challenges for the Congress party. The old guard will start questioning his leadership. There is a risk of massive exodus from the party to the BJP and to regional parties.
The BJP could up its ante and launch Congress-mukt Bharat 2.0 campaign. Tough times lie ahead for the Grand Old Party…
Amitabh Tiwari is a political consultant and strategist advising political parties and leaders. He was a corporate and investment banker and tweets @politicalbaaba.)
With inputs from Neha Shukla.