New Delhi/ Ahmadabad: Congress has lost elections in two states, namely Gujarat and Himachal. While in Gujarat, the Congress party has been in opposition for more than two decades, it was the ruling party in Himachal Pradesh.
Nonetheless, despite the twin losses that the party endured, it is not facing ridicule as was the case following previous losses. On the contrary, every one seems to be appreciating the performance of the party in Gujarat. Amazingly no one is talking of Congress mukt Bharat (India without Congress) right now.
Till around 10 am yesterday, the fight looked so close that the faces of the BJP leaders seemed to have disappeared from television screens and there were not many leaders ready to respond to repeated calls from over-enthusiastic reporters and newsrooms. The faces of BJP leaders started reappearing only when it became clear by around 10:30 am that the party will be able to scrape through once again.
The party that was written off even before the beginning of the process of election, performed so well that the ruling BJP will have to devise a new strategy to take on it in the next round of assembly elections in the year 2018 and then in the Lok Sabha elections in the year 2019.
There is no denying that despite the loss, the good performance put up by the country’s grand old party in Gujarat elections, strengthens the hands of the newly installed Congress president Rahul Gandhi. The Gujarat performance will revive the party’s spirits ahead of key state elections in 2018 and consolidate his claim as principal challenger.
The fact that Congress forced the BJP at 99 will embolden the scion of the Nehru Gandhi family to take more bold steps in the coming days. Rahul must feel vindicated by his decision to induct ‘caste cowboys’ Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mewani – which carried Congress to its highest seat tally since 1985 and stopped the BJP from entering the psychologically reassuring zone of three digits. On the other hand, it will force the BJP to go into introspection mode.
One thing that must make Congress party doubly happy is the fact that the party was able to expand its rural base further. A Times of India report says, “In Gujarat, it was the cities that saved the day for BJP. They have traditionally voted BJP, but demonetisation and GST were thought to have angered the trading community, especially in mercantile hubs like Surat and Rajkot. But in the end, the party won 33 of the 39 seats, most of them by considerable margins. The gap was much narrower in the 45 semi-urban (BJP 26, Congress 19) seats while Congress actually did better in the 98 rural seats, winning 52 seats to BJP’s 40.
The report goes on to add that the “Congress would be ruing its failure to fully cash in on possibly its best chance in recent memory. Besides GST and demonetisation, BJP had been buffeted by an agrarian crisis, anti-incumbency, and the desertion of a big chunk of Patidars, who were among the original saffron standard-bearers. The fusion had generated an atmosphere that could have tempted independent voters to favour the underdog. Indeed, Congress leaders seemed to have sniffed a victory – the reason why they remained downcast despite a much-improved performance and perhaps why Rahul skipped the press conference.”
The fact that the saffron party was challenged so viciously in its bastion by the Congress -that many had started calling a dead horse – shows that the competition is going to be tough in coming assembly elections in the year 2018 and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.