he Congress’ disastrous performance in the just concluded Assembly elections to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan presents an uphill task for the Opposition INDIA bloc to unitedly take on the BJP which has emerged the biggest winner in the state elections. As the confidence of the saffron brigade has soared sky high, the Opposition is sorely disappointed and demoralised. Already, there are signs of disunity as the regional parties had to stomach the arrogance of the Congress going virtually solo in the campaigns during the run-up to elections to the four states. Some of these parties were even suspicious that the Congress deliberately stalled discussions on seat sharing among the INDIA constituents for the Lok Sabha polls till the state elections were over. The Congress was believed to be waiting for the outcome hoping to cash in on the situation and get a lion’s share of the seats as it was confident to do well in the Hindi heartland.
The party is now left with its worst-ever footprint in north India, only ruling in Himachal Pradesh. The last time the Congress was in power only in one Hindi-speaking state was in 1998 when Sonia Gandhi took over as party president.
The immediate fallout of the shock defeat of the Congress is that many leaders of the INDIA alliance seem hesitant to attend a meeting of the alliance convened on December 6. Leaders of the Janata Dal (United) and Trinamool Congress are questioning why the Congress did not hold the meeting earlier. They also put up a brave face for the alliance saying the election results showed not as much a success story of the BJP as the failure of the Congress.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh claims the party led by Mamata Banerjee can provide leadership in the battle to defeat the BJP in the country. That is of course mere bravado divorced from reality. JD (U) leader KC Tyagi sounded more realistic when he said the Congress’ decision not to invite any of the constituents of the INDIA bloc for campaigning showed their “over enthusiasm and overconfidence.” He believes INDIA alliance partners need to come together with new methods to take on the BJP.
The most significant noise that is being made is by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which rightly claims it is now the largest Opposition party in north India since it rules Delhi and Punjab.
The Left too is upset with the Congress. Its new assessment in the light of BJP’s resounding victory is that there is need for secular forces to redouble their efforts in order to safeguard people’s livelihood and defend the secular democratic character of the Indian republic. These will have to be done with renewed vigour, said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) national spokesperson Subodh Kumar Mehta also spoke in the same language when he said it is important now more than before to sit together soon and rework plans for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Even if some in the Opposition bloc fear the Congress could now be a ‘baggage’ within the alliance, fact is that the Congress alone can be the pivot of INDIA. Certainly, its bargaining power is now blunted much after the debacle in the Assembly polls. The party’s misplaced belief after the Bharat Jodo March led by Rahul Gandhi and victory in the Karnataka elections could have led to overconfidence and hence blunted its focus.
Seasoned political leader Sharad Pawar has said that the Assembly poll results will not impact the Opposition’s electoral fortunes in the coming Lok Sabha polls and the INDIA bloc needs to stay united and redraw its strategy.
This could be an attempt to boost the Opposition’s sagging morale. But, that is the only course left for now.